A Brief Outline

What we want to do and why

Our vision is to become net carbon neutral as a community by 2045 at the latest, and to try to achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible. We aim to do this through changes in the ways we travel, the ways we heat our homes, the ways we consume energy, the food we eat and how we live.

As we learn more about climate change facts, we’re sharing what we learn.

We are very grateful to the Scottish Land Fund for awarding us funding which has enabled us to purchase land on which to plant a community woodland to help offset our carbon usage, and also the Slains Kirk building, in which we hope to create a café that people will enjoy coming to. People in our community have expressed the need for somewhere to meet each other informally, as some feel lonely and isolated, particularly in the winter months.

We still need funding to renovate the building as our project centre, with investment in energy efficiency and in sources of renewable energy.

At the same time our café will celebrate the historic Slains Kirk building, and will feature stories from the community’s past, reaching across centuries, and valuing the roots which have made the community what it is today.
It will provide a venue to encourage art and musical talent – and to appreciate the craftsmanship of the building itself.

All ages in our community have already been involved in different aspects of the SEAchange project.

Where and who we are

SEAchange is a community group with all the members living locally.

We are in north east Scotland, on the coast twenty miles north of Aberdeen.

The group was born at a public event in Nov 2017 at the end of which 14 of those who came to the meeting signed up to meet further and to work on the ideas put forward that evening. We continued to consult the community, receiving ideas in email suggestions following community newsletter articles, online survey comments, a gala day stall, and an open coffee afternoon. Some people have moved away, and others have joined the group.

The group has been meeting regularly since then and has developed the SEAchange project to meet the needs and aspirations expressed by the community.

At first an informal community group, we adopted an interim constitution during 2018, and became a SCIO on 4th April 2019 SEAchange – Slains Environmental Action for change SCIO
Charity number SC049195

Our officially defined geographical base is the area represented by the Slains and Collieston Community Council.

We are already working in partnership with Slains School, and are in conversation with the Forvie Centre at the Forvie National Nature Reserve, run by Scottish Natural Heritage.

We have consulted members of other groups in our community – for instance the Slains and Collieston Community Council, the Collieston Offshore Rowing Club, the Collieston Development Group, the Collieston Harbour Heritage Group, and Collieston Action for Teens.

Carbon Neutral Community 

Our aim is to work towards becoming a carbon neutral community. We need to address our large carbon footprint, because we are a mainly commuting community, with high heating bills from living in old stone houses. We aim to do this in a number of ways:

  • One of our team is Professor Pete Smith, FRS, FRSE, who is an international climate change scientist working at the University of Aberdeen, who has contributed regularly to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who is advising us on the necessary steps on a pathway toward net zero emissions as a community by 2045 at the latest, with ambition to reach net zero sooner.
  • We have been in contact with Professor Dave Reay at the University of Edinburgh who has agreed to offer honours / masters students the opportunity of coming to our community to do research projects which will help us to quantify our baseline carbon footprint levels, to provide a roadmap for emissions reduction and to advise on how we can monitor progress toward our net zero ambitions in the coming years.
  • We see the disused kirk, which is a 200 year-old stone building, as an ideal example to demonstrate what can be done with high specification insulation, ground-source heating, and renewable energy, to transform old buildings like those we live in to net zero housing. This will serve as an example and a demonstration, with all of the details and costs on display on boards so that people can learn from the renovated kirk and adopt the technologies in their own homes. To this end, we plan to make it the centre of this project, creating a café information centre for learning and sharing ideas about the changes that individuals can make through lifestyle choices
  • We also aim to purchase land nearby which we will plant with trees. The woodland planted on this land will offset 830 return car journeys to Aberdeen per year. We hope to acquire more land for planting trees in the future, but this initial step would be key in raising awareness of the cost in carbon emissions of car journeys, and the potential of encouraging car-sharing. Tree-planting will also provide added biodiversity habitats, with at the same time amenity value for the community. Working together to plant the trees will help grow our feeling of community, and of well-being.
  • As we go forward we hope to work more with other groups, particularly other small communities with similar ambitions.
  • The changes we learn how to make in our own homes and lifestyles will be on-going, and we hope that – together and individually – we can make a lasting difference as we work towards becoming carbon neutral. We hope to acquire more land for tree planting as funds allow, expanding the project as soon as possible.
  • We believe that as we find effective ways of reducing our use of fossil fuels, and our over-use of energy, we can inspire others to realise how important this is.

Activities

Immediate and Short Term:

Regular activities so far have been planning meetings, consultation with the community, researching viability of the project, and writing funding applications – all of which will continue.

  • Now that we have been awarded grant funding by The Scottish Land Fund to purchase the Slains Kirk building, one priority will be to do the urgent repairs required to preserve it.
  • Collecting data on existing/reduced use of fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions, in partnership with students from the University of Edinburgh under the guidance of Professor Dave Reay.
  • Researching and providing information on ways to reduce our carbon footprints.
  • Hosting a series of open public talks on climate change, behaviour change, transport emissions and alternatives, the climate impacts of food and other relevant topics organised through Professor Pete Smith, in collaboration with Aberdeen Climate Action.
  • Working together as volunteers to plant trees, create paths and recreational woodlands.

Activities

Longer Term:

Running a café which will be a centre for sharing information about climate change and what individuals can do through lifestyle choices. There will be wall displays with information about low carbon living

  • Our café will give a lead by example in sourcing all food as locally as possible, by providing exciting plant-based menu choices, and in participating with local initiatives to use surplus food for community benefit, thereby creating as little waste as possible.
  • The café will also provide a place for people to meet each other informally – a need expressed by the community
  • Providing learning resources for local children and young people, in partnership with Slains School, especially with respect to the impacts of climate change, and ways to reduce our own carbon emissions.
  • Developing a continuing programme of educational, artistic, musical and other relevant activities for all ages
  • Providing training in practical skills, both in the café and the woodland environments
  • Training also in skills such as improved driving techniques to minimise fuel consumption

Grant Funding

We have already been awarded grant funding to develop this project.

Our very warm thanks go to The Scottish Land Fund for their award of grant funding to purchase the Slains Kirk building for community use as a centre for the SEAchange project.
They have also awarded us funding to purchase nearby land on which to create community woodland.   Together these two purchases will be a vital step in the realisation of the SEAchange project.

The Formartine Area Committee and The Architectural Heritage Fund have enabled us to have professional advice to research the viability of acquiring the old kirk building as a demonstration model and as an information centre for our project. This has included a feasibility study, a valuation, a condition report, a structural survey, architectural design drawings and costs calculated by a quantity surveyor, as well as help with our business plan from Just Enterprise.

The Architectural Heritage Fund have given us further funding in February 2021 to develop the project – again very much appreciated.

Formartine Area Committee also funded an independent community consultation and ballot, which took place in December 2019. Voting papers were sent to all 252 homes in the Community Council catchment area. There were two questions, representing the two strands of our project. Of the 187 votes cast, 74% and 75% supported each of the two aspects of the project.

This support from the community gives us confidence in both the viability of the SEAchange project, and the need felt by the community here for it.

Cafe

It will be a café that people will enjoy coming to, with a welcoming atmosphere of warmth and informality.

The café will provide a place for people to meet each other on a drop-in basis – a need expressed by the community.

Our café will give a lead by example in sourcing all food as locally as possible, by providing exciting plant-based menu choices, and in participating with local initiatives to use surplus food for community benefit, thereby creating as little waste as possible.

This information centre will be a place to share with each other what we are learning about climate action as a community, and what individuals can do through lifestyle choices. There will be wall displays with information about low carbon living.

It will also be a way of reaching people much more widely, because this area is one of striking natural beauty, and many visitors come here, and will be attracted to visit the café.

The building will be a centre of this project, and as such will demonstrate what can be achieved even in an old building, with high specification insulation, ground source heating, and renewable energy. The outcome will be increased education on the environment, climate change and low carbon living, through provision of information on display boards and tables.

A café will help to reduce isolation, and foster growth of friendships. Several individuals expressed again at our open day that they feel lonely especially through the winter, and would value somewhere to meet others, which a café would provide.

There is a lack of employment opportunities here without commuting, and the café will provide jobs open to local people, starting with a few, and we hope increasing as the café expands its customer base.

In addition, we plan to provide training opportunities in the café for teenagers, and the possibility of part time work to build up their work experience.

Positive outcomes for the community

Our project’s aim to work in practical ways towards becoming a carbon neutral community will not only make an important contribution to the future environment, it also provides a focus around which we can come together as a community to work as a team.

Other benefits of the community woodland are to provide leisure and amenity value to the community, with paths for walks and a play area for families with children.

Working on creating and maintaining this woodland will improve physical and mental health with the resulting sense of well-being for volunteers, as well as for users who will be able to find relaxation enjoying walking in it.

It would also provide another biodiversity habitat, since Collieston and Slains is an important site for both common and rare migratory birds. Interest in wildlife, with time spent in the fresh air observing, has the additional outcome of a sense of wellbeing at any age – with added educational benefit for children in our community.

The woodland will become a resource for education about the environment, as well as about climate change and low carbon living – with the outcome that we will all be better informed to make choices about lifestyle.

Planting this relatively small area of land will be a demonstration illustrating that much larger areas will be required in the future if Collieston and Slains is to meet its ambition to become carbon neutral, but it is an important start which will raise awareness within the community of the impact of commuting, encouraging use of public transport, car sharing, home-working and other alternatives to car use. Another outcome will be to reduce costs for individuals in the community.

The building will be a centre of this project, and as such will demonstrate what can be achieved even in an old building, with high specification insulation, ground source heating, and renewable energy. The outcome will be increased education on the environment, climate change and low carbon living, through provision of information on display boards.

A café will have the very positive outcome of reducing isolation, and fostering growth of friendships. Several individuals expressed again at our open day that they feel lonely especially through the winter, and would value a drop-in place to meet others, which a café would provide.

There is a lack of employment opportunities here without commuting, and the café will provide jobs open to local people, starting with a few, and we hope increasing as the café expands its customer base.

In addition, we plan to provide training opportunities in the café for teenagers, and the possibility of part time work to build up their work experience.

There are a number of artists living within the Collieston and Slains community, and the project will provide space to exhibit and sell their work, as well as encouraging the artistic aspirations of children growing up in the community – with the outcome of increasing appreciation of art for everyone.

Likewise musicians – there are musicians living in Collieston and Slains, playing in three different bands, and this project will provide opportunities for live music, both informally and in concerts, with the outcome of fostering increasing enjoyment of, and participation in, music for all ages in the community.

A further outcome for the community will be appreciation of our heritage. The history of the area goes back to the fifth century, and various aspects of this history and heritage will be illustrated in wall displays and through the building itself.

All these positive outcomes for the community were highlighted at our recent open day.

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