Do you like your spaghetti (South) Western?

Listening to hundreds of local people during the past few months, the over-riding concern for many in Glastonbury is the closure of all the town’s banks.  By April – when Lloyds close their door for the last time – Glastonbury will no longer have a High Street Bank…

Glastonbury is not unique; towns up and down the country are facing the same situation! Traders who will struggle to get enough coins and notes for change, or to deal with cash at the end of the day; people being excluded – especially older members of our communities, who do not use the internet or who feel uncomfortable dealing with banks over the phone…

Do the banks care? ” – a question raised at one of the packed public meetings; “we can’t boycott them! Everyone needs a bank!
Yes! ” came a reply, “they care about their reputations…
Publicity is important,” someone else suggested: “People know about Glastonbury – haven’t we got a big enough profile to do something?

Absolutely

Last Bank Standing Oracle February 2016
The Last Bank Standing in the Glastonbury Oracle magazine, February 2016

The first Flashmob – Jerusalem – attracted a great deal of attention. It caused a stir at Lloyds HQ, when the 23 head directors each received a memory stick containing the video.
We’re reliably informed “They did not like it!
It caused a stir in Westminster too – resulting in a mention at Prime Minister’s Questions that our “World famous town will lose all three of its remaining banks within 12 weeks of each other! ”  The Prime Minister agreed that the “physical presence” of banks on the High Street was important…

More bank closures ahead as the Co-op plans to pull out of Street CSG 4th February 2016
More bank closures ahead – from the Central Somerset Gazette, 4th February 2016

Our petition has attracted over 5,000 signatures – and it was handed to County Councillor Terry Napper on 11th February.
It reads: “In view of the severe difficulties businesses and people, who don’t bank online, will face when all banking provision is withdrawn from a community; we call upon our County Council to actively engage with the Banks to ensure their adherence to the Access to Banking Protocol.”
This now means that Somerset County Council will have to debate the issue of the bank closures at their next meeting.

Petition handed to County Cllr Terry Napper
Last Bank Standing campaigner Gabriel Avalon hands over the 5,000 strong petition to County Councillor Terry Napper at Glastonbury Town Hall

You can still sign our Last Bank Standing petition to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP by clicking HERE.

At their January meeting, Glastonbury Town Council – prompted by Last Bank Standing – decided to support the campaign by adding the remaining banks to the District Council’s Assets of Community Value list – which provides “land or property of importance to a local community” additional protection from development under the Localism Act 2011.

Councillors vote to protect threatened bank buildings CSG 28th January 2016
from the Central Somerset Gazette, 28th January 2016
Flash mob will keep pressure on banks - Central Somerset Gazette, 18th February 2016
Flash mob will keep pressure on banks – Central Somerset Gazette, 18th February 2016

WANTED Black Horse 1What next? A Spaghetti Western (of course)…

Crazy Horse!

The call went out: “Flashmob 11.45 am, Saturday 20th February – outside St. John’s!

The nod was given – the Black Horse had been spotted.

Time to get the Deputy…

 

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Community Shares are ACE

Avalon Community Energy's first public meeting, August 2013
Avalon Community Energy’s first public meeting, August 2013

In August 2013, a public meeting was held at Glastonbury Town Hall by members of our community who wanted to get organised over re-localising energy production.

As a CO, I supported the group who coordinated the meeting, and I helped facilitate the community engagement and consultation – listening to what those present loved about renewable energy, their concerns, their visions for local energy projects, and their ideas for the future.

The event attracted a good-sized audience, who heard from two keynote speakers:  SCS’s Alex Lawrie – who explained how to set up a Community Energy Co-operative – and Robin Mewes – who gave a presentation about Wedmore Community Power, and how they raised over a £1,000,000 through the issue of ‘Community Shares’.

The first public meeting in August 2013.

The public meeting asked the question: “Do you think Glastonbury should generate its own source of renewable energy?
The answer was a resounding “YES!

I continued to be involved, and over the following months, Avalon Community Energy (ACE) Limited – registered as a Community Benefit Society, number 31969-R – started to build its membership; listening to the wider community; expanding its base to the West Mendip district, including Wells, Shepton Mallet, and Street, in addition to Glastonbury and the surrounding rural areas. The founding directors being Graham Lucas, Madeleine Milnes, Chris Briton, Earl Bramley-Howard, Alyson Black, Owen Saward, and… I found myself being elected the Chair!

Parallel to the board of directors, a ‘Breakthrough Technology’ group developed out of the community engagement and consultation – meeting regularly to explore the potential of new energy generation devices, cutting-edge research, and alternative technological solutions.

In the spring of 2014, an ACE website was created, and we put together a number of funding bids and possible projects – based on the feedback and suggestions coming from our community.

ACE made a successful application to the Cooperative Enterprise Hub for funding to secure development support, and also received a £20k grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund – part of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) – to conduct a feasibility study on our potential projects.

Early in 2015 – following the completion of the feasibility study, conducted by Communities For Renewables – two roof-top Solar PV projects were identified: Brookside Academy and Evercreech Junction industrial estate.  Detailed plans were made, and the group prepared to raise funds using Community Shares.

A Share Offer Document was produced during the summer of 2015, and a Pioneer Share Offer was launched to raise £150k.  A video supporting the offer was filmed and edited by local resident Kitty Treacy.

The Share Offer closed on 27th November 2015, with supporters and members of the community investing £184k into the project – £34k over the original target!

As I write, ACE is waiting for the Ofgem pre-registration of the Evercreech Junction project, which will install 173kW of solar PV over 6-8 rooftops on the industrial estate; and Ofgem’s pre-accreditation of the Brookside Academy project’s 88kW solar PV installation on the roof of the school.

 

To find out more about Avalon Community Energy please visit the website, or follow ACE on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.