Member of the Month is a regular feature through which we shine a spotlight on a SCCAN member and the amazing community climate action they undertake. This month’s Member of the Month is the inspiring and visionary 360 Centre.
Tell us about your organisation/community group.
The 360 Centre is a community group formed around the concept of creating an ambitious climate change centre and campus on the brownfield site of the old Cockenzie power station. The group has at its heart, our changing climate and its impact on society and the environment. By building partnerships with communities, government, business and academia, the group’s vision is for an internationally renowned centre for training and knowledge in renewable energies. The site will be transformed to a unique campus with art installations, wildlife areas and recreational facilities, fulfilling the passions of the 360 Group and wider community.
What inspired you to take your first step into community climate action?
With the rapid increase in global weather extremes brought about by climate change, many in our communities realised the urgency for action, and wanting to do something at a local level. The now demolished Cockenzie power station had stood at the core of both community and county for decades, contributing significantly to the adverse effects of climate change, belching soot into the atmosphere and polluting our environment. In the years following demolition, political, economic and community actions to tackle climate change saw moves towards meeting Government-set Net Zero targets. It soon became known that clean, green renewable energies of the future looked to locate to Cockenzie to connect offshore wind-energy to the National Grid. With the increase in awareness and investment in renewables our communities saw an opportunity to make the most of the rich industrial heritage of the Cockenzie site. The Group visualised a transition from coal to renewables and the regeneration and transformation of part of the disused site for the benefit of the community and wider public. The site was considered the natural ‘home’ for a Centre of Education and Knowledge with renewables at its core, set in a unique campus with large art installations and green recreational spaces overlooking the Firth of Forth.
What’s the one community climate action you’ve undertaken that you think had the most impact?
Hands around Greenhills’ was a community event held on 21st September 2014. The event was a peaceful and positive demonstration in support of the greenfield areas of the Cockenzie site and our coastline as a whole. Greenhills, historical pathways, community orchard, the battlefields of the Battle of Prestonpans and many copses and hedgerows, home to an abundance of wildlife, together with our coastline were all under threat from a development proposal which would change our communities forever. The event saw hundreds of people of all ages from the communities bordering the site and further afield, come together to hold hands around Greenhills with music and stories about the area, nature and environment. While hands were being held, the words, ‘Keep Our Coast’, was spelled out by people lying on the ground within the area. The event ended in a Rowan tree being planted on the site by children and storyteller, assisted by battlers from the Battle of Prestonpans re-enactment group. It was an uplifting and inspiring show of love and respect for one another, our social history, greenspace and environment.
Is there any story from the past from your community that has inspired or informed your community climate action in the present?
An article appearing in a local paper in Spring 2014, described a proposal by Scottish Enterprise for an energy park on the Cockenzie site. Communities bordering the site became aware of the proposed developments which threatened marine life through extensive dredging, plus the loss of historical pathways, parklands, countryside and battlefields from the Battle of Prestonpans. As a result, a peaceful and positive grassroots movement started within the communities. It ultimately resulted in Scottish Enterprise withdrawing their proposal.
This action from almost ten years ago, was a demonstration of how communities can influence plans for their local area. It remains to this day, a positive story and continues to inspire community members to dream big and propose initiatives which not only preserve the industrial, cultural and natural heritage, but continue the story line into transforming their local area to a cleaner, greener future.
What story of now from your community would you like to be recorded for the future?
The 360 Vision document of today dedicates a section to ‘Collaboration: the importance of partnership’. From its inception, there was an awareness that the initiative would only be possible with a forward-looking partnership approach. The need for the community to work closely with local groups and organisations, such as, community councils, Area Partnerships, East Lothian Council, Scottish Government as well as academia, schools, non-profit making organisations and business at national and international level was recognized as being of fundamental importance. The fostering of partnerships is already well underway, with positive collaboration between our 360 group and other like-minded groups throughout the county. Our hope is that year after year, the annual reports of the Board of Trustees of the 360 Charity will have a section dedicated to the visionary partnerships that resulted in an internationally renowned Climate Change Centre at Cockenzie. The collaborative model made it possible to not only offer training in the skills required to grow the green industries of today, but also brought the arts and environmental communities together to create a unique campus attracting visitors from afar. Partnerships and collaborative communities provide the key to turning the tide on climate change.
What story from the future of your community would you like to see written/recorded?
One wonders whether the 2021 visionaries behind the 360 Climate Change Centre proposal could have been aware of the impact the Centre has on those living today. Could they have known that the idea, rising from the grassroots of the communities bordering the Cockenzie site – would have such a profound impact at a national and international level? Or, that the Centre would play such an instrumental role in the fight against climate change? In a nod to the industrial heritage of the 360 site which saw fossil fuel hewn from the ground for decades and then burned and spewed to pollute the skies for decades more, the site is now transformed into an educational hub for the clean, green energies that power our homes and cities. For the renewable sector internationally, the Centre is their go-to place for skills-training and apprenticeships. Students travel from across the globe to study and ultimately play their part in our efforts to work in partnership with nature and the environment. While there is much to celebrate in the achievements at the international level, of particular note at a more local level, is the positive impact on the grassroot communities – the very heart of the 360 Group. Educational and employment opportunities have been seized in areas that once suffered social deprivation while the industrial communities of yesteryear have become the vibrant communities of tomorrow. The visionary partnerships from the 2020s will long be remembered for the part they played in safeguarding our future.
What’s your advice/tips for other community groups wanting to start to take collective action against a changing climate?
Meet regularly face-to-face to chat and to discuss what’s going on in the community and to formulate ideas. Be prepared to take small steps along a bumpy road, but remember that even small things can make a big difference. Retain the belief that obstacles can be moved and things can happen against all the odds. Always remain positive, enthuse others, communicate with clear messages and be respectful and inclusive at all times. Be resilient when faced with adversity in what can often seem like an uphill struggle. Everyone has talents, knowledge and skills to offer, just listen, locate and tap into them.