Workshop 6: Imagining Westwood
Reading time: 7 mins
As we move deeper into the imagine phase of the workshops, we learn from others, refine our ideas, and identify specific projects for the community.
Building on our previous workshop in Westwood and delving deeper into the ‘imagine’ phase, the group divided into two to focus on the emerging topics of transport and energy efficiency in the home for our sixth workshop.
As ideas about projects began to form, facilitators were able to bring in experts and case studies from across the country to share their knowledge, experience and advice on topics ranging from training to being a home energy advisor or starting up an active network in the neighbourhood.
The transport workshop began with a recap of challenges and issues identified in previous discussions and re-introduced project ideas. For example, the group had previously discussed how heavy car use, air pollution, parking on the streets, affordability, and the environment were challenges in the area.
The transport group’s morning session used the now-familiar neighbourhood maps as a focal point. Kat facilitated discussions and made place marking points.
This session allowed our participants to let their imaginations loose on solutions to the transport issues in Westwood. Firstly they focussed on the school run, a time of congestion on the main roads in Westwood, disruptive parking on the pavements and difficulties in crossing roads as pedestrians.
Although not all of the participants in the transport group have children, they had all faced issues with the traffic build-up and general congestion experienced during busy times.
Leading neatly into a discussion about the existing traffic calming measures in Westwood and the impact they had. As one group member said, People don’t realise that this road (Featherstall) drops from 20mph to 30mph, and it’s a long road with no obstructions, so people go really fast until you get to the zebra crossing. They need to have better signs and slow down the traffic earlier.
The rest of the group agreed and supported this; as Kat focused on what routes people could get to cycle or walk to school, another problem became clear – walking, and cycling routes aren’t cohesive.
Maygate and Gateway are accessed via two subways or by a crossing point further down; a group member reflected that they had seen school kids crossing the dual carriageway They have a little traffic island, but no traffic lights – so you’re just standing waiting for traffic to ease to get across – they should have traffic lights there. Using the crossing adds ten minutes to your journey! There was consensus that the existing subways were not great alternatives. Neither was well lit and isolated from the main road; one member immediately shared his feelings about using it.
‘The subway is scary at night.’
Others added to the sentiment, sharing their feelings:
…it doesn’t feel safe for people; it’s a safety issue…they have a subway, but it looks really unsafe; there is always broken glass and stuff…
Kat asked how they would improve the space, what would they do to make it more accessible? Ideas came quickly:
an overhead footbridge? Though it would have to be quite high as the road is so wide! Even just traffic lights would help…and an island…the subways should be closed off, the space could be made greener and a nice space for families to use.
Examples from Greater Manchester were discussed, such as overhead pedestrian crossings in Hulme, but the group felt that traffic lights would also slow down traffic and reduce dangerous driving.
The discussion opened into another avenue; if a side road, such as Wadsworth Street, could be opened up, then the existing, currently underutilised and unkempt cycle path could be extended and include a walking route. Imagining how this would be both practical and benefit the broader community, the group looked back at lockdown habits and how people had walked around the area more.
Incorporating street signs on a route would tell people how long the walk was, how many calories could be burned walking the route, using an app to log in and out on a QR code, and time themselves.
The group felt pedestrianised streets could be ‘greened’ to make them more pleasant, and the area as a whole would benefit from increased connectivity.
‘It would be nice to have the continuation of the cycle path….even if they just made a nice route to connect things together, cycling and walking. It would be great to encourage people to get out there.‘
The session shifted its focus to cycling, with a case study on Chorlton Bike Deliveries, which introduced the idea of E-cargo bikes and gave a good basis for discussions; the group took a few moments to think about how that idea could translate to Westwood…what value would people place on it, which businesses would benefit from accessing those services, the biggest concern was that the culture of cycling wasn’t as established in Westwood as it is in Chorlton.
Although there was some interest in the scheme, the feeling of the group was that it wasn’t a priority right now but could be an idea in the future. A longer discussion ensued; the group felt it was more important to establish road safety in the community for cyclists through courses for school children; from there, it could then grow to an opportunity for bike hire, the cost of bikes often being a barrier to participation for people. The group talked about a membership scheme so that people could borrow bikes, a space for learning to look after bikes and a partnership with local businesses such as Halfords and Positive Cycles.
Following lunch, the group met with Chris from Transport For Greater Manchester, to discuss bike safety training and other opportunities the group could explore from the projects they had discussed. Chris had previously worked with some of our group members and so understood Westwood very well, he was able to share current projects and funding opportunities which supported the discussions and ideas the group had for smaller initiatives to introduce the culture of cycling and safety into the area.
We want to get people to see the benefits of riding a bike, to replace traffic..not just for fun.
The group had lots of thoughts around the barriers to cycling; people may not be able to afford a bike or want to buy one; they were enthused by the idea of bike libraries and explored how this could work in Westwood with the centre being the hub.
‘The biggest barrier in our area is people’s mindset’
Chris also shared more information about the GM Active Travel Network, which really got the groups attention, understanding how they could help influence change to benefit the community on a local and GM level was really interesting to them, Chris was able to share his knowledge and expertise as well as examples in other areas across GM where Active Networks were working, the group strongly felt that this was a definite part of their future plans, and are keen to explore in the next workshop.
As the workshop came to an end, the group had the opportunity to reflect on the discussions and decisions taken that day. There was a feeling of optimism around what we had learned that day, and the experiences shared with us, the group were excited to build a long term relationship with the GM Active Travel Network, and the opportunities that could be explored through events and funding as part of that. At a local level, the group decided that connecting with Oldham Council’s Transport Policy Officer and better understanding the benefits of forming an Active Travel group in Oldham was an essential next step, to moving the ideas for the pilot project forward, and will be asking them to attend Workshop 7.
Energy efficiency services in the home
Our second group dedicated their day to exploring further what kind of actions are needed to work towards better energy efficiency of Westwood homes. In workshop 5 we discussed the need for support services in the community, like energy advice and assessment for retrofit services as well as training for energy efficiency improvements in people’s homes. We spent workshop 6 breaking these services down and exploring them further with the help of different case studies. The aim of the session was to establish what steps will need to be taken to help people in Westwood to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and which of those might be services that the community could offer themselves.
Aneaka Kellay from Carbon Coop joined us again for the day to give some insight into Carbon Coop’s work as one of the case studies to consider. Retrofit services are Carbon Coop’s core business, supporting householders step by step on the way to insulate their homes. Aneaka told us how Carbon Coop began 10 years ago as a small group of people who wanted to find hands-on ways of tackling climate change together.
Aneaka shared how she started with Carbon Coop organising socials and working on increasing the membership and then moved on to develop training and work especially with local contractors, so developing the supply chain which is a very important part of the retrofit services Carbon Coop offers. There is no point in getting householders ready to start on their retrofit journey, if there are not enough contractors in place with the expertise to provide the quality needed. Aneaka described how over the years both her confidence and her knowledge have increased through working alongside experts. She also pointed out that as an organisation it is important to understand what levels of expertise are needed for the work and when to buy or invite in expertise or sign post and refer to other organisations or practitioners.
She also highlighted that the core expertise that a community organisation can bring to this kind of work is engagement and of course an understanding of the local communities, as well as their existing networks and connections.
This is how we broke down the different actions on the way to the ultimate goal stated in workshop 5: Energy efficient, warm and healthy homes for every resident in Westwood.
#1 Training staff and volunteers
There are some great basic training programmes that people can participate in to build capacity within the team of staff and volunteers.
#2 Awareness raising in the community
Aneaka told us that Carbon Coop started very simply by doing awareness raising around the need for and benefits of domestic energy efficiency measures in different communities in Greater Manchester. An example she shared with us is the Green Open Homes bus tour. It invited community members to travel on an old city bus to different homes, where people had for example done a whole house retrofit or a first couple of measures. They invited participants into their homes for a show and tell. Another example was Energise – the Carbon Coop format of festival or community event with workshops and talks around energy efficiency and retrofit, but also music, poetry and food. Finally she spoke about how people join Carbon Coop as members so they can learn from and with other members, for example in socials organised in different locations, always combining learning and sharing with little perks like cake and social activities.
#3 Basic Energy Advice
We watched this fantastic film about an energy advice cafe in the community that South East London Community Energy (SELCE) offer. SELCE are a community energy company who have several solar installations that provide them with income. They also offer basic energy advice for community members. The emphasis here is on helping people save on their energy bills and be more comfortable and healthy in their homes. This might be about learning how to read the bill or switch providers, how to save on energy, prevent condensation or use the technology in your home correctly. There are several organisations in the UK who offer this kind of service, for example Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) in Bristol and Cumbria Action for Sustainability, they usually offer a telephone advice service or home visits, which tend to be free for people on low income. However we particularly liked the Energy Cafe example, as we imagine that the reach could be much wider. There were knowing chuckles in the group when the narrator in the film mentioned that many people initially turn up for the cake and then walk away with great advice and support. SELCE’s advice cafe is run by trained volunteers.
The group were also very interested in the free toolkits provided for example by CSE on wide ranging topics such as ‘heating controls’ or ‘damp and condensation’.
#4 Basic Energy Assessment
Often included in the energy advice services can be a more detailed but basic home assessment. We welcomed Rae to our session on zoom. Rae works as an energy advisor for Plymouth Energy Community. She told us about the basic assessment tool they developed with the help of Carbon Coop to be able to assess a home step by step, offering clients advice on how to for example prevent draught and tackle mold.
#5 Installing basic measures
There are many things householders can do themselves, like closing the chimney, if they don’t use it anymore or stopping draught from under the doors. We looked at some great examples of how to support people with that.
Cumbria Action for Sustainability have fantastic how-to videos on their website. South Seeds in Glasgow, another community organisation offer some great pdf step by step instructions. They also offer a handyman service, where you can book a local handyman to help you with the DIY energy efficiency measures. They either teach you or do it for you at a very affordable price. South Seeds also developed a local tool library, a place where community members can borrow tools like books in a library! Here they also offer a guide on how to set up your own.
For this service we returned to the case study of Carbon Coop. The most basic training they offer is around understanding basic principles for example around ventilation, how to properly dry your clothing and ventilate your home or for example learning about simple draught proofing measures. Carbon Coop also offers workshops on how to do simple DIY retrofit works, for example your own loft insulation. These are organised by Carbon Coop but delivered by external experts.
Finally Carbon Coop used to offer an-in depth training on how to plan and implement a whole-house retrofit. This is for people who want to take the step to insulate their entire home to a very high standard, plus potentially install a heat pump and solar. And this brings us to the last service we discussed.
#7 Whole House Retrofit
This is the full monty! Carbon Coop has developed a service called People Powered Retrofit which is a start to finish support for homeowners who want to do a whole house retrofit. It includes an in depth assessment, project planning and management, design and procurement. It took Carbon Coop 10 years to get to this stage and this kind of service needs a high level of expertise. And of course these kind of services are meant to be rolled out across Greater Manchester and can hopefully be signposted to by a local energy efficiency hub in Westwood.
After this long morning of information gathering, we came back together after lunch to discuss with the group which might be the energy efficiency services that they could offer in Westwood themselves. The group put together a special package of services as a baseline and will bring this to the wider group to discuss.