On March 5th, the LI Green Industry Working Group met with Phil Furneaux, physicist and Honorary Teaching Fellow at the University of Lancaster, to hear about the Brampton2Zero initiative. Phil explained that he and a diverse group of like-minded people had come together to work towards a sustainable and carbon neutral future for their town of Brampton in North Cumbria. As strong minded individuals they had agreed to put in place a structure of shared ownership with a rotating chair to draw equally on their different expertise and ensure that no single voice would dominate.. B2N is now formally registered as a CIC (an incorporated Community Interest Company).
The context of Brampton (4,000 pop) provided a foundation for such a major initiative: a small town with a close-knit community, surrounded by beautiful countryside, widely shared commitment to eco-friendly practices, a thriving farmers’ market and community recycling shops. Working with this, Phil and his colleagues developed a philosophy of Resilience to deliver better futures for Brampton’s children. They involved people in local sustainable solutions of practical benefit, starting with land management for increased biodiversity and carbon sequestration in woodland, hedgerows, peat bogs, orchards and wildlife gardens. New projects include retrofitting houses, installing solar panels and EV charging points in the town’s industrial estate which is the starting point for a local renewable electricity network and hydrogen fuelling of transport.
B2Z wants Brampton to show how a community can work together to reduce its carbon footprint by itself, building people’s commitment and expertise. Experience has demonstrated that making the town carbon neutral and thereby promoting wellbeing for its residents and visitors can no longer wait for government, councils or large businesses to come forward. The directors of B2Z are very aware that the success of the project depends entirely on the community believing in, committing to and working with the project. Public opinion is surveyed, schools are engaged in environmental activities, indirectly reaching parents; there’s association with farmers in land management and with local businesses in mutually beneficial energy or insulation projects. All projects have to involve tangible benefits for residents and businesses. The goal is to become an eco town, where residents work together to manage the environment and determine their own energy sources and prices independent of the grid.
Phil Furneaux is very aware that this is also a lifelong learning project where exchange and partnership with University and other researchers is essential to make progress. B2Z’s success depends on mobilising people beyond party politics. It will also require investment beyond that which Brampton or its people can provide. As a CIC it is already able to hold assets and make contracts. It intends to shortly establish a Community Benefit Trust to mobilise and manage community investment on a cooperative basis and extend the scale of activities, including training of local people (in retrofitting, for example). While it’s thus engaged in green Community Wealth Building, B2N envisages contracting with and inviting investment from specialist businesses outside the local area, to provide hydrogen or micro grid power management technology for example.
LI members were encouraged by B2N’s success and interested to compare its activist-led model with the green initiatives of CWB local government. In Brampton, the local authority was not disposed to lead a net zero programme, although it may become a future partner. LI members thought that even where local government was positive about net zero community wealth building, the activist CIC model could have advantages because:
-leadership resides with those who have the necessary commitment and expertise
-activities, involvement and resources can be focused on locally beneficial net zero objectives and cumulative recognisable results
-understanding, commitment and political orientation can be progressively reshaped starting from a small base.
They’d be very interested to connect with people working on similar projects.