This is the first in a series of monthly blogs about community-led housing in Scotland, jointly written by Mike Staples, Chief Executive at South of Scotland Community Housing (SOSCH), and Ronnie MacRae, Chief Executive at Communities Housing Trust (CHT). Between us we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across Scotland, providing well over 1,000 affordable homes.
Amid all the noise about Glasgow’s COP26 and the world’s net zero targets, progressive and creative climate action has been quietly taking place in communities across Scotland.
Scotland has ambitious climate goals. We’ve committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2045 and having 1 million zero-emission homes by 2030. The built environment has widely been acknowledged as a key area for opportunity in meeting these goals, and communities are making great progress through community-led housing.
This isn’t new. Community Land Scotland’s recently commissioned research, Community Landowners and the Climate Emergency, finds that communities are good at climate-friendly regeneration and that environmental sustainability is a key tenet within their activities. The report finds that communities have “an over-riding concern to care for the community and the local environment,” (p.7).
A second report by the Community Land Trust Network of England and Wales finds that community-led housing organisations in the UK routinely meet and exceed local and national carbon reduction requirements.
Why? Because communities focus on their experiences, their needs, and their aspirations for the future. They look long-term. They want to thrive. They prioritise wellbeing. And this all translates into genuine, grassroots commitment to sustainability and environmental protections that we find in so much of their activities.
Both SOSCH and CHT know this to be true. We frequently work with communities who are generating their own power through, for example, hydro schemes, rather than relying on fossil fuels. We work with communities retrofitting abandoned buildings and bringing them back into productive use as low-energy homes. We work with communities using vacant and derelict land to develop diverse and creative combinations of housing, services, and social and green spaces. Providing homes and services within easy reach contributes to the national aim of 20-minute neighbourhoods and reduces travel.
These are just a few aspects of a wide picture of how we’re supporting communities in working towards net zero, and indeed carbon negative.
Green design and energy efficiency
A mix of facilities supporting a local circular economy
The GALE Centre, part of CHT’s regeneration of Achtercairn in the centre of Gairloch on the west coast, is run by the Gairloch & Loch Ewe Action Forum (GALE). It embodies GALE’s ambitions to provide services and lead sustainable, community-led development in the region.
Retrofitting disused buildings
Supporting rural trades and ‘green’ construction
So, the good news is that community-led housing is regenerating places and making important contributions to tackling our climate crisis.
Community-led housing enables a just and inclusive transition to net-zero. It is an empowering, democratic way to involve everyone in reducing climate change without jeopardising the human right to a warm, affordable home.
Let’s widen the national conversation about net zero and the ways to achieve it. Community-led development, based on the everyday experiences of local people and their wishes for the future, is a fair and responsible way to deliver sustainable development that Scotland urgently demands.
Support for community ownership and development means both people and planet thrive long-term.
We’re calling on the Scottish and UK governments to recognise the leadership of communities and increase support for community-led housing. It’ll allow more communities to deliver on climate targets as well as building the homes we so desperately need.
A tree-cutting team from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has been on hand to help a group of forestry trainees gain valuable skills for future employment.
Earlier this month, four trainees attended a one day Chipper Training course on Cawdor Estate, located between the mountain ranges of the Cairngorms and the sandy beaches of the Moray Firth. Using a chipper machine provided by SSEN, the trainees learned how to safely operate the specialist equipment using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), giving them valuable skills to place them in good stead for a future career in the industry.
The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) runs the Skills Development Programme for young people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training. The programme consists of a full-time college course, personal mentoring, work experience and a training allowance. 85% of HSCHT’s young people go on to further education, modern apprenticeships or full-time employment.
Nicola MacKenzie, Skills Development Programme Manager at The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust said: "The loan of the SSEN wood chipper and the assistance of staff for a one-day course on Cawdor Estate were essential in enabling four of our forestry trainees to gain their industry standard Operation and Maintenance accreditation, reinforcing safe working practice and placing them in a much better position to gain future employment within the industry.
“This fits very well with the practical work experience our trainees participate in throughout the year and is often key to gaining essential skills and entry into their chosen industry.”
Graham MacLennan, Team Manager, Tree Cutting North at SSEN added: “We were delighted to help The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust by providing a chipper and guidance from our Field Manager Roddy Ross to support four of their forestry trainees with their accreditation.
“We are always happy to help where we can, whether this is spending a day of our time through our ‘Be the Difference’ programme to give back to the community when they need our help, or by providing specialised equipment like we did for HSCHT. I hope the training was beneficial to the four trainees, and they manage to put their newly acquired skills into practice in the near future.”
This blog features a variety of CHT’s developments and projects located throughout the central and northern Scotland. It also includes the latest news and updates regarding the Trust.