Update on progress by ‘Balsall Heath Is Our Planet’ – March 2010
Balsall Heath Is Our Planet is a community initiative that aims to cut the energy use and the carbon emissions of our inner city neighbourhood of Birmingham.
The neighbourhood’s housing is mostly pre-1919 terraces, with solid brick walls and single glazed windows which allow much heat to escape. Many people suffer from fuel poverty i.e. more than 10% of their income goes on energy bills.
There is low car ownership, but the main roads bring noise, pollution and severance from commuter traffic.
We have strong community and faith organisations, who have been major players in providing services and turning around the appearance and reputation of the area.
In 2005, the Birmingham Tornado devastated parts of the neighbourhood, making us aware that climate warming brings more extreme and destructive weather events.
In 2007/08, we held a Community Conference and workshop process. This produced an Action Plan for reducing the environmental footprint of the area, through a number of projects.
Local organisations have their own aims to reduce their carbon emissions, and they have come together to support Balsall Heath Is Our Planet.
‘Balsall Heath Is Our Planet Ltd’ is now a company limited by guarantee, run by a steering group of people who live or work in the area. We are applying to be a registered charity.
We have had a 12-month grant from Working Neighbourhoods Fund, via Be Birmingham, to pay a development officer to progress the projects identified in our Action Plan.
Details of our activities are published on a weblog at http://balsallheathisourplanet.wordpress.com
Time for a Demonstration
We want to have demonstrations of homes and buildings that use the sun to heat water and make electricity. Applications were made in 2009 to both British Gas’s ‘Green Streets’ programme and the government’s ‘Low Carbon Communities Challenge’ for grant funding. These were unsuccessful, but we will be looking for more such opportunities, such as the Birmingham Energy Savers scheme.
Meanwhile, a local architect has designed a highly energy efficient house in the area for his family, called the Zero Carbon House. Successful Open Days were supported by BHIOP. A Solar Workshop has been held there. There is also a 40% house and one aiming for 80% reduction in energy use is under development. The next Open Day is 29th September 2010, as part of the national Old Home, Super Home network .
We see much potential for using the sun to heat water for businesses, like restaurants, nurseries and launderettes. This would save substantial amounts of CO2 and increase the competitiveness of these businesses. Schools and community buildings can also benefit.
The Green Doctor
The Green Doctor scheme is now calling on people in Balsall Heath. Green Doctor service is free of charge to households who are in receipt of certain benefits and have trouble with paying their gas or electricity bills. Draught-proofing, money-saving light bulbs and water-saving devices can be installed.
The Green Doctor can advise how heat is being lost from the home and where to get help to make the changes. Contact; 0121 766 1100.
A drop-in High Street Energy Advice service is being started in Moseley, and we have ensured that residents in Balsall Heath are also benefitting.
Spreading the Word
The ‘Balsall Heathan’ community magazine is running a series of articles giving information about how to save energy at home, written by John Newson. More detailed Information Sheets are being produced by BHIOP, the first wais on ‘Using Solar Energy at Home’.
Balsall Heath Carnival in July 2010 allowed us to reach many more people with our message.
Local organisations such as the Jericho Foundation have adopted a goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 10% in 2010 - in line with the city, national and international aims to tackle climate change. A new heating system means Jericho will achieve this. BHIOP is working with other community organisations in 2010/11 to develop practical plans to make their buildings more energy efficient and use renewable energy. 10:10 website
BHIOP proposes that 3% of Balsall Heath’s income to be spent on tackling climate change, in line with the recommendations of the Stern Report.
Jobs and skills
Local people are being trained to install solar water heating systems at a social enterprise – the Jericho Foundation.
Energy from Waste
There is now a project collecting waste cooking oil in our area, called Grease Lightning, run by CSV Environment. This is re-processed into ‘bio-diesel’ fuel (which powers the collection vehicle). We support the aim of processing waste oil into fuel within the neighbourhood for use here.
We want to encourage composting or bio-digestion of food waste by schools, restaurants, community buildings etc..Compost bins will be installed at some locations in 2010.
Moseley Road Swimming Baths could be the site of a combined heat and power system. People could swim in the waste hot water. We have been urging this as an element in the ‘save the baths’ campaign and the City Council’s green energy plan.
We have produced ‘Balsall Heath Is Our Planet’ logo re-usable shopping bags, from a sustainable material (hemp), replacing plastic bags. These will be sold to encourage people to shop in Balsall Heath instead of driving to other parts of the city.
Grow Your Own
A community food growing project is being planned, to encourage people to grow and share food, reducing ‘food miles’. This project will have a multicultural theme emphasising how food that can be grown locally is usable in the different world cuisines that are represented in our community.
Trees will be planted across Balsall Heath this spring 2010. They can provide shade and keep our inner city area cool in summer, while providing homes for birds and even improving the air quality. We lost many younger trees in the 2005 tornado.
A grant from the Birmingham Climate Adaptation team is allowing community tree planting, led by Balsall Heath Forum’s Green Team.
To protect the area from future droughts and floods, we are installing rain butts to store storm water. Gardens at schools and other community buildings will use the water. Drought resisting plants will be used to cut down the drinking water used to keep floral displays alive in the streets (Balsall Heath In Bloom)
Balsall Heath ‘extended schools cluster’ is working with BHIOP to encourage schools best environmental practice. Children believe what they see and take what they learn home to their families.
Cycling is clean, healthy and very cheap. Some of us signed a petition to Birmingham City Council and they will install cycle stands at 4 new sites in 2010. We have made proposals to make the Longmore Street cyclists’ crossing of the Middleway safer and more welcoming.
The ‘walking bus’ takes children to local primary schools, so helps cut the number of cars on the road. We are looking for ways to sustain and extend it.
We have backed calls for the re-opening Balsall Heath and Moseley railway stations for passenger services into Moor Street station and the cross city line at Kings Norton. The new service now included in regional rail plans for a start in 2014.