page title icon Workshop 5 Sholver: “I didn’t realise we could alter things from ground level”

Workshop 5: Imagining Sholver

Reading time: 5 mins

Just like in Westwood a week earlier now also the Sholver group begins to imagine what a low carbon neighbourhood, that tackles the most pressing energy challenges facing their community, could look like.

With the diagnosis phase of Oldham Energy Futures done, over the next three workshops the group will come together to reflect on the picture of local energy challenges that they’ve created and explore alternatives most fitting for Sholver. The aim is to create a Local Energy Action Plan that shows a set of recommendations backed by the group ready to be presented to local decision makers, like Oldham Council, Housing Associations and businesses. Where the most pressing need for action is found the group will be supported to turn their ideas into a seed funded community-led project, helping to build up vital skills held at the neighbourhood level.

As the autumn cold and rain is settling in, the group in Sholver has gathered momentum in its exploration of local energy issues. We have grown to now have fifteen group members (up three from the beginning of the workshops in June!). Wrapped up and armed with hot water bottles the hardy group got together in the (well ventilated!) Sholver and Moorside Community Hub to look back at the summer workshops and start to imagine what’s possible for Sholver in the coming energy revolution. 

We started the day by creating a timeline together of the first four workshops and reflecting on what stood out for the group. This workshop took place in the midst of the energy price rises which certainly sharpened the conversation around the need for energy efficiency to lower bills and to find different ways of doing things into the future. 

Participatory timeline of diagnosis phase workshops

Quite a few people reflected that they had not thought about climate change before coming to the workshops, but now when they hear about it on the news they pay more attention and feel more knowledgeable. There was also a new sense for some that small groups doing things at a local level is a worthwhile part of the bigger picture.

“I just didn’t give it [climate change] any thought whatsoever before I came here” 

”I feel a lot more knowledgeable”

“I didn’t realise we could alter things from ground level”

“I think if there’s a lot of small groups who do something, it will help
towards the bigger picture.” 

Participants looking at pictures from previous workshops and reflecting on memorable moments.

The group reflected on the inequality of the current state of housing: 

“You can walk down one street and see that this one’s great and this is crap [houses]” 

They also saw the links between ‘fresh air’ and the importance of this alongside insulation and other energy efficiency works. 

There was a surprising realisation that a lot more was going on in Oldham around these issues than they had realised. 

After reflecting together on what had been learnt over the first four workshops the group split into three to take a more in depth look at energy issues at the scales of home, neighbourhood and borough. Starting from exploring issues the groups then looked at what their ideal would be and what actions would need to be taken to work towards that ideal. 

After (a tasty!) lunch the small groups fed back on the ideas for actions that had emerged in the small group conversations earlier.

Action ideas emerging were:

  • Local renewable energy generation
  • Better public transport to discourage car use
  • Working with First Choice Homes to improve energy and engage tenants better
  • Creating a place of interest in Sholver 
  • Better initiatives to encourage energy efficiency at the borough level
  • Tree planting to mitigate flood risk and green the area
  • Local awareness raising and becoming a local decision making/advocacy group
  • Making the local area greener (trees, more gardens and ecological networks, less fly tipping)

The group was reminded that all of these actions would be a central part of their Local Energy Action Plan. To take a deeper dive into the action ideas and look specifically at what this group might want to explore further as a community based pilot project for Sholver we spent the afternoon exploring the ideas with the following questions in mind:

  • What’s important for the climate?
  • What’s important for the community?

We talked a bit about some of the findings from Laura’s exploration into local energy data. When looking at energy, heat and transport we found out that the biggest proportion of carbon emissions in Sholver comes from heating our homes with gas (almost a fifth of all carbon emissions, 17%). This is followed by private transport 8%, and home electricity use at 6%. 

You can find more data on Sholver and St James Ward in our website resources.

Armed with this new knowledge we took a look at the big action ideas emerging and decided to rank them on the basis of biggest and lowest impact on climate and on the community.

Through this emerged a conversation around what we meant by community benefit. Would solar PV on the roofs of First Choice Homes benefit the community? Who in the community would benefit? How does the community benefit from wind and solar generation? Are bills lowered by solar panels? 

A big topic of conversation was around public transport. With services having changed recently it was more difficult for Sholver residents to travel into Manchester. A younger person reflected that when people turn 19 and no longer access the subsidised bus pass they are often forced into private car ownership as it becomes too expensive and inconvenient to continue traveling on public transport.

One person comments in amazement that:

“We were in London the other week and the transport there is amazing. We used our bus pass, we went everywhere. We were shocked, like “the damn bus is on time!” 

There was wide (though not full) agreement that improving public transport links would have a huge impact on the community and the climate. 

The group’s energy action ideas ranked.
The group’s energy action ideas ranked.

As we head into November we are excited to get into more detail at the next workshop in which we’ll invite people from inspirational community projects across the country to help us explore what is possible. Focusing on actions that had the most group support: community based renewable energy generation and public transport schemes in Sholver. Follow us on social media to keep updated on the journey of our community workshop groups, where we’ll be sharing insights, key milestones and project updates over the coming weeks.

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