17 Oct 111 Acre Site, Community Engagement, NIEL membership, FOE and US Consul
Well it’s been 6 weeks since last blog update and gosh things keep moving apace!
Site in process of being secured, meeting local community associations, NIEL membership, Friends of the Earth affiliation, Permaculture magazine article on us, Department for Communities and PwC workshop, meeting US Consul, CO3 workshops, talk in Dublin, Aspiring Residents meeting, investor from USA, Business Plan, Community Places and Enterprise Award… read all about it…
111 Acre Site in West Fermanagh
Big news this month really is that negotiations are well under way for drawing up a legal contract to secure a beautiful 111 acre site, with farmhouse and outbuildings along the Arney River in West Fermanagh. A sympathetic landowner read the article in the Fermanagh Herald, loved the idea and wished to offer his land and support to help with the project. We are delighted, as securing this site (subject to planning permission) will enable us to begin to build a case to put to local planners. In support of this we have also made successful contact with Chris Hazzard (Minister for Infrastructure) ref a review of PPS21 that will enable our Ecovillage and await eagerly to hear back from him. However we will be pushing onwards with putting together an outline planning application as a next key step.
(See more Site Pics below)
Initial Local Community Meeting
In line with the above we held a really successful, initial meeting on Sat 15th Oct. with representatives from three local community groups. Killesher Community Development Association, Cleenish Community Association and Bellanaleck History Group. During the meeting we enjoyed a buffet meal together and Enriched Earth Founder and Director John-Paul Patton delivered a presentation on the vision and values of the project and then engaged in a question and answer session from the local community representatives present. One of the most interesting things for us to come from this initial and informal consultation was a request for some low-impact housing provision for some elderly locals to be able to live together in close proximity, a kind of eco-fold, and we are very open to adding this into our planning process. A question was also asked ref employment opportunities for local people and we assured that ‘local sourcing’ of all things, is a key aspect of our environmental ethos.
We are very impressed with the welcome from the local community representatives to the project and ourselves. We are equally impressed with the work done to date by this pioneering and motivated community. They have engaged in a cross-community rebuild of the historic Arney Bridge (which sits right beside our proposed site), they have built a Community Blacksmith Forge from original materials (which fits perfectly with our vision of conserving cultural heritage) and they also were involved in the wonderful and nationally acclaimed ‘Battles, Bricks and Bridges’ project in which they rewrote the historical record ref the battle site of the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits and won the prestigious British Archaeological Awards category for Best Community Engagement Archaeology Project in July 2016. This is just the kind of community that would fit perfectly with our ecovillage plans and they were keen to emphasise how ‘outsiders’ have always been made welcome to the area. Further reference our cross-border and cross-community ethos the representatives also noted how while the Troubles impacted sorely with local losses, it never split the rural community here, who always worked together for mutual interest, despite any religious or political difference. These guys are truly inspirational!
Friends of the Earth: Endorsement and Affiliation
We held a meeting on 11th Oct with Friends of the Earth and are in the process of applying for formal affiliation with them-this is what they had to say:
“Friends of the Earth wishes Enriched Earth Ecovillage success as it experiments with a model of development that incorporates both the new and the old. We look forward to seeing what lessons can be learnt from their attempt to create a better way of living in harmony with each other and the planet. Innovation and education are essential elements of moving our society and economy towards a sustainable and equitable future. We are currently pleased to be exploring formal affiliation with Enriched Earth, as part of our work to support worthy projects seeking to work in harmony with the natural world” (Friends of the Earth)
Meeting with US Consul
The US Consul Daniel J Lawton also met with Enriched Earth at the SBSEH and added us to his ‘black book’ of networking contacts. We are very keen on fostering links with the USA as part of our tourism and cultural appeal.
Enriched Earth Ecovillage CIC are also delighted to have been accepted as a formal member of Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) the premier national forum and networking body for organisations interested in the environment.
In terms of PR John-Paul has been invited by Maddy Harland the founder of Permaculture Magazine to submit an article about our work and aspirations for publication.
Department for Communities and PwC
John-Paul was also invited to an ‘Investment Readiness Workshop’ as part of a pilot programme from the Department for Communities working in synergy with PwC. The later are offering one-to-one support for a select number of Social Enterprises and we aspire to be one of them!
We have attended two CO3 events and are in the process of becoming members. One event was on EU Grants and the other on ‘Mistakes Fundraisers Make.’ Both were educational and provided good networking opportunities in the third sector.
Talk on Enriched Earth in Dublin
John-Paul was also kindly invited to speak about Enriched Earth Ecovillage at the 2016 Féile Draíochta (Irish Spirituality Festival) in Dublin on 1st Oct. The talk was very well received and a land owner in Co Wicklow expressed interest in using with permission our franchise model and brand to do a similar project there!
Aspiring Residents and Investors Meeting
This weekend we will have another Aspiring Residents meeting in Belfast to plan the next step forward and meet an Aspiring Resident and Investor visiting us all the way from the USA. We will also be planning another Site visit.
We have completed 2nd draft of business plan but following latest site developments this will need redrafted again! Never a dull moment.
Community Places Planning Help
We have been in touch following a recommendation from NIEL with Community Places who offer free planning advice to community groups, John-Paul will meet with their director this Friday 21st Oct.
Triodos Bank (the ultimate eco and ethical bank) have also approved Enriched Earth for a deposit account and that just needs forms signed and returned and will enable us to begin to process private investment pledges into CIC shares.
Social Enterprise Award
Last but not least… Social Enterprise NI Awards ceremony is this Thursday 20th Oct… please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as will be such a boost for us if we win!
More pictures from the site inc farmhouse, cottage, orchard area and birch wood.