Open Newtown is the trading name for Going Green for a Living Community Land Trust Ltd. The project has recently signed a 99-year lease of 130 ha of green space within in the town centre as part of a land asset transfer between Powys County Council and Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn Town Council. This is a 5-year development with a mission of ‘open access to green and blue spaces in Newtown’ with an award of £1.1m from the Big Lottery.
Improvements to green spaces in the town to date have included regular community litter picks, grassland management for public, biodiversity and wildlife benefits, extensive tree planting with members of the public and school groups, planning of a new BMX and mountain bike track, an outline for green and blue assets to be used as part of local social prescribing, and a proposal for a new Riverside Venue (cafe, meeting space & social activities). This work adds to the wider plan of bringing forward Newtown as a ‘destination’ for tourism in Mid Wales and new economic growth in the region.
Mick Brown, of nearby Robert Owen Community Banking Fund, and also a Director of Open Newtown, had a project idea to look at EV car clubs and shared transport solutions, to help alleviate transport poverty in this part of North Powys. Open Newtown agreed to host the project, and enable development work for models of low carbon and multi-modal transport, using car clubs to link local people to train lines, and bolster community transport schemes. A funding bid, to include co-ordination by a Project Officer, was lodged to local Arwain funding.
In the meantime, Open Newtown signed up to Renew Wales to start market research, get different parties to talk together, and plan alternative low carbon travel. Andrew Capel is a Renew Wales mentor and was linked to the group – he was happy to share his experience and knowledge of running a car club in near-by Llanidloes for 12 years and he undertook some research into local transport offers.
Andrew says this about his research: “Doing the research was interesting as I learned more about how our local dial-a-ride scheme is set up, and what it has achieved with regards to community support for transport. I also learnt what motivates them and their approach to future potential projects. As part of the research into possibility of EV taxis I contacted Powys County council licensing department to explain the legal requirements. I was impressed at how helpful they were. The main barrier to EV taxi service and take up of EVs is the lack of charge points in mid Wales and Llanidloes in particular.”
Open Newtown went on to secure the Arwain funding to start EV charger installation and car clubs in Welshpool, Newtown and Machynlleth.
Renew Wales was able to offer support for a regional event working up models of low carbon transport with a variety of partners, in one place. Open Newtown hosted this event on 2nd July at Theatr Hafren, Newtown, with 30 attendees, including low carbon innovators, CT, car clubs, Powys County Council, interested residents, local CICs, local businesses and our regional energy network, SP Energy.
The attendees had 5 models to work up on the day, so everyone had to really graft for their lunch! The models included:
- a lift-share scheme to serve the town of Montgomery
- an EV taxi scheme in the Newtown and Llanidloes areas, including cash flow forecasts
- a marketing strategy for low carbon travel in North Powys
- an effective method for CT (community transport) to use EVs from local car clubs to boost capacity
- a location map for future EV chargers in this part of Mid Wales
Within one month of the workshop, two attendees came forward with the intention of launching a social enterprise to deliver an EV taxi service in the Newtown area- with shared journeys being one of its unique selling points! Open Newtown is now working with this fledgling social enterprise to help deliver their Arwain project.
Richard Burrows, a Newtown heating engineer and long-time EV campaigner, had this to say:
“As a small Welsh business interested in zero emission transport, Renew Wales has really helped us meet key people to shape our own social business ideas further. This has been mainly thanks to the networking and support obtained through their EV workshop in Newtown. Although I have been campaigning for EV charging infrastructure for over 3 years, I didn’t realise there were local people trying to realise similar ambitions. Now thanks to the shared ideas and future collaborative partnerships, our enterprise will no doubt thrive and in turn push other local agencies to meet their own low carbon travel ambitions in Powys.”
New update here – UPDATE Low Carbon Transport Project Open Newtown Aug2020