Details of Progress in 2022
Since May 2022 when voluntary groups in Salisbury met to discuss how they could be more effective in addressing the climate crisis, we have come a long way. The consensus from that meeting was that we would benefit greatly from having a shared premises to link our efforts and act as a one-stop shop for interaction with the public, and the term EcoHub was coined to refer to this. From that point on, we have followed a deliberate series of steps to bring us to our present position.
Summary of progress so far
During our first seven months we have followed a clear and methodical plan and achieved significant progress in the following regards:
Defining our aims and agreeing a clear Mission Statement.
Setting up a steering group and producing a basic leaflet.
Setting up a benefit concert to provide initial funds.
Launching ourselves with a regular public presence in Salisbury Market.
Researching other successful Environment Centres and establishing links with potential funders.
Securing initial funding from a benefit concert and donations.
Establishing positive relations with Salisbury City Council and investigating possible premises.
Providing energy-saving advice in the cost of living crisis
Applying for CIO charity status.
Step 1 : define our aims
Our first action was to set up a drafting committee to produce a Mission Statement, which was agreed at a further meeting in June 2022.
Step 2: prepare for launch
Regular meetings continued through July and August, from which an informal interim steering group coalesced. Work was done to convert the essence of the Mission Statement into a leaflet more suitable for general public consumption, and it was decided to focus on Salisbury Transition City's annual People in the Park event in September 2022, which would include a wide range of stalls from local environmentally focussed voluntary groups and small businesses, in order to launch the project and recruit members to the EcoHub Alliance.
During this period, we were also offered a stall space in Salisbury Market free of charge by Salisbury City Council, which we gladly accepted as this provided a secondary launch pad and a continuing public presence to build on.
Step 3: secure initial funding
At the beginning of August we contacted the popular environmentally focussed band Seize the Day, who agreed to perform a fund-raising benefit concert for the project in October to provide a source of start-up funds.
Step 4: first public launch
Our first market stall took place on Saturday 3rd September, and these have continued on a weekly basis. On most weeks the stall space has been shared with one of our member groups.
Our general leaflet was home-printed by one of the steering group members, and a second leaflet was commercially printed to publicise the benefit concert: Salisbury Transition City provided us with a space to advertise it, and the facility to sell advance tickets via their website. The general leaflet was revised after the benefit concert, and is now being revised again.
We also produced an additional leaflet for the public, giving information on waste reduction and recycling opportunities in Salisbury, and a survey form to find out people's concerns and what they would find useful from the EcoHub.
Unfortunately, the People in the Park event, which had been due to take place on September 1 7th, was postponed until May 2023 due to the death of H.M. Queen Elizabeth I I , but Salisbury Transition City did enable us to contact their list of intended stallholders and to inform them of our existence and aims.
Step 5: research the way ahead
During September and October we contacted four existing Environment Centres, in Swansea, Southampton, Shrewsbury and Kingston-upon-Thames. We were intent on discovering how each was set up and on what governing structure, what premises they occupied, what they did and how they were funded. This helped us to clarify the direction we should take, particularly in regard to adopting a formal legal structure.
We researched the Charity Commission website, and concluded that we should become a CIO on the Association model, and drafted charitable aims accordingly.
At the start of November we attended a Meet the Funders event organised by Wiltshire Community Foundation in Trowbridge to make contacts and research possible future funding opportunities, and attended a meeting with Wessex Community Action to assess our progress thus far.
Step 6: initial funding secured
Our benefit concert on October 22nd successfully raised a net profit of £373.76. We also received donations of £220. After repaying expenses to date, we had a balance of £508.05 at the end of 2022. Seize the Day expressed their willingness to play a further benefit gig for us in spring 2023.
Step 7: contacting Salisbury City councillors and assessing potential premises
During October we found out that an empty former chemist's shop in the centre of Salisbury in Blue Boar Row is owned by Salisbury City Council. We therefore wrote to all the city councillors expressing an interest in this property. This approach received a positive response from leading councillors of all parties, including all three co-leaders of the present administration, although with reservations on all sides as to whether those particular premises would prove practically suitable for us. It led to a meeting with the Clerk to the Council, and a subsequent site visit.
The shop in Blue Boar Row is part of a complex of listed buildings stretching back from the street, all of which is currently owned by the city council, although previously owned by Wiltshire Council and before that by Salisbury District Council (which no longer exists). The shop itself has leaks from the upper floors, and the attached buildings behind are in a state of advanced dilapidation and in part unsafe. Wiltshire Council has potential plans for the site, and some funds available towards the necessary works, but not enough without an additional source of funding.
We are seeking further information from Wiltshire Council regarding details of their plans and the size of the funding shortfall, but it is clear that even if it were possible for the repairs to the buildings to go ahead with EcoHub involvement and grant funding, such repairs would be likely to take at least a year and possibly substantially more. We are therefore looking at possible alternative premises, whether on a short- or longer-term basis. One such possibility is another (smaller) city council owned shop, and we will also be approaching local estate agents, who have empty shops on their books.
Step 8: providing energy saving advice in the cost of living crisis
Since mid October, three of our steering group have been taking a course provided by the Centre for Sustainable Energy on providing energy-saving and money-saving advice during the present cost of living crisis. We have also downloaded and printed up an extensive range of their advice leaflets, which we have made available on our market stall, and which can be downloaded here. This initiative has been greatly welcomed by visitors to the stall, who have been very grateful that there is someone doing that for them. There continues to be a substantial take-up of these leaflets each week.
Step 9: applying for registration as an Association model CIO
We are currently applying to be registered by the Charity Commission as an Association model Charitable Incorporated Organisation. We expect to receive a decision on our application by the end of February 2023.