10 members present in the village hall (including committee) and 3 members joined the meeting remotely via Zoom.
Apologies from Heather Saunders.
Agenda and meeting slides can be found here [link coming soon]
Minutes of the 2021 AGM were agreed.
Giles Barwell read out his Chair’s report, which can be found below. This included thanks for the many members who have taken action to help deliver the aims of the group.
Discussion after the report included concerns that Taylor Wimpey have been slow to deliver promised environmental benefits on the northern Alder View development. Susanne Watson has been campaigning to make sure that Taylor Wimpey meet their commitments and agreed to send details to Kate Lily at Harwell Parish Council.
The treasurer presented the accounts here. As with last years, thanks to contribution from the Hive Market, the group remains in a good position to cover incidental expenses (e.g. hall hire) and to fund small projects such as tree planting.
A big change this year is that the group manages a lottery fund grant for developing the new orchard on the recreation ground. There have also been donations for sponsorship of the new trees.
Election of officers
Sustainable Harwell has a Chair, a Treasurer and a Secretary. These posts were all up for re-election.
The current officers were all willing to stand again. One new candidate had agreed to join as an extra officer but withdrew when it was confirmed that the group could only have three officers. The following officers were elected unanimously:
Chair – Giles Barwell (proposed Graham Sumner, seconded Martin Rickets)
Treasurer – David Marsh (proposed Martin Rickets, seconded Alan Spence)
Secretary – Martin Gibson (proposed Martin Rickets, seconded Mick Storey)
End of Formal AGM
Talk by on car sharing by Emily Kerr
Emily Kerr’s informative and enthusiastic description of a car sharing scheme in Oxford was well received by the meeting. It was decided that we should survey people in the village further to investigate the level of interest and how this might be taken forward.
I’m writing this on an early October morning in the village. Outside the leaves are starting to turn and there’s an overnight nip lingering in the air. I take a moment to reflect on the intricacy of the natural world and the changes between the seasons.
There are of course many other changes impacting us right now. One of the most financially concerning is the rise in energy prices. Perhaps like me you’re already considering what could be done at home to reduce energy costs – for example, eliminating drafts, improving insulation, fitting solar panels, batteries etc. The Group Officers are currently looking at ways that Sustainable Harwell could help in this area.
Among all the global events, here in the village, Sustainable Harwell has had another active year.
The tree-planting group have been working with the Parish Council to take forward the new Community Orchard at The Rec and the following is a concise summary of their activities written by Penny Kinloch.
A grant was secured from the National Lottery Community Fund to be spent on the Community Orchard project. Many thanks to them for providing us with the funds to start the project. We purchased various items including a water bowser which has been used to water the hedging plants. With an able band of volunteers, we planted a circle of hedging whips to mark out the fruiting area and the composting area, and then mulched them to provide protection and encourage growth. We are planting approximately 40 trees in the inner area: a mixture of apple, cherry and espaliered pear trees. We chose varieties that have different fruiting seasons – early, middle and late – to give as long a harvesting period as possible. We asked for sponsors for the fruit trees and had a terrific response and most of the trees have been allocated. The trees will have a label indicating the variety of fruit and (if requested) the name of the sponsor. We aim to plant these at the end of November/early December. Future plans include more foraging trees in the outer area (outside the circle of hedging plants) and the provision of seating in the inner area. Many thanks to everyone who has helped with the project – we have made good progress.
The cycling and footpaths group
The main activity during the year has been to follow up the work the group have been doing on improving cycling provision in the village. As part of this the group submitted a response to the County’s consultation on the proposed new 20mph speed limit and traffic calming measures in Harwell. Details are on the web site.
We understand that these changes are still being considered and some of the proposed traffic calming measures are being re-designed followed by a further consultation.
Lobbying for new local homes to be more sustainable
We have been keeping an ear to the ground in several areas, following government announcements concerning building standards which still leave questions around what’s happening at the new homes shortly to be built in Harwell at the new Valley Park development. As Chair, I wrote to one of the developers a few months ago pointing out the opportunity to install solar panels and heat-pumps while the new houses are being built, as well as installing swift bricks to help the local swift population. You can see a copy of copy of the letter on the web site. Thankfully, we believe that at least the latter opportunity is now being considered.
You may also remember, last year, the group submitted to the consultation on the redevelopment of the former Esso Site at Milton Hill raising concerns over location, transport, infrastructure provision and ecological impact. Details are available on the web site. Following the consultation, the Vale decided to refuse the application. However, we understand that an appeal to the Secretary of State has been made which is yet to be determined.
In the summer we ran a stall at the Harwell Feast to promote the Community Orchard and Harwell Swifts. There was a high level of interest both with people wanting more information on sponsoring trees at the orchard as well as installing swift boxes at their houses in the village.
Dr Graham Sumner also wrote to us with his research about air pollution levels in Harwell. He pointed out a web site which is now publicly available to obtain an estimate of pollution levels for our immediate neighbourhood, based on postcode. Again, details are on the web site, Search for Air pollution in Harwell.
Following the talk by Equiwatt in May, we were contacted by them to ask if any members of the group would like a free smart plug for use in their home. Several Group members have taken up this offer and are installing the plugs.
Other Groups and organisations
As mentioned above, we have been working to promote the activities of Harwell Swifts help them provide greater provision to support the Harwell swift population. You may have noticed the increase in in new swift boxes around the village.
Additionally, The Group continues to be aligned with several other local organisations including the sustainability groups in nearby villages. There is regular communication between SH officers and these groups.
We also continue to be a member of Community Action Groups (CAG) Oxfordshire and receive valuable information and support from them. https://www.cagoxfordshire.org.uk/
This year the Group also became a member of The Low Carbon Hub in Oxford. As part of the network of 39 other community groups we benefit from the support and opportunities that they can offer in generating renewable energy and energy saving projects.
We continue to work loosely with Oxfordshire Friends of the Earth.
As usual we have held regular group meetings throughout the year. It’s certainly been good to be meeting back in person at the Village Hall, although we are still streaming events in order to cater for those who can’t make it here.
Once again, we’ve heard from several expert speakers on wide ranging sustainability topics. In October, group member Dr Graham Sumner spoke about The History of The Climate Crisis. In December, Richard Dorey from the Low Carbon Hub in Oxford spoke about a community wide approach to renewable energy in Oxfordshire. In March Dr Robin Buxton and Sophie Cunningham spoke about their Yellow Wagtail project. And at the May meeting Atzin Madrid, from Equiwatt discussed why demand management and engaging communities can collectively make a difference to our energy systems.
Our grateful thanks to all these speakers who gave up time to inform us.
Just to remind you that more information about all these talks and the activities and wider work the group is involved with is available our web site at: https://sustainable-harwell.uk
While I’m talking about the web site, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow officers in the Group. David Marsh our Treasurer, for keeping the financial activities of the Group in order as well as devoting time to ensuring the web site is up to date. And Martin Gibson who as Secretary as has played a key role in steering group activities throughout the year.
Finally, I would like to say a huge thanks to all of you, the group members who give up the time to support activities throughout the year. Without your involvement many of the things I have outlined above would not have happened.
As I said last year there is a lot to do in a short space of time to tackle the big sustainability issues in a fair way that works for everyone in society.
We are all part of this and at the community kevel I hope Sustainable Harwell’s activities will continue to play an important local role.