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February 23, 2011

Facing up to the life without Kinloss

The recent announcement that RAF Kinloss is to close has cast a pall of gloom over the Moray area with estimates that it will take £500,000 a week out of the already fragile local economy.  As local campaigners try to draw national attention to the plight of the area, one community group in Forres is working hard to ensure the community has the strength to withstand the loss

AS the ‘Fair Deal for Forres and Kinloss’ campaign gathers pace to put the area firmly in the spotlight, one organisation, founded four years ago, is promoting various projects to help townsfolk help themselves and lift the doom and gloom surrounding budget cuts, job losses and the increasing cost of fuel and food.     Transition Town Forres (TTF) is putting Forres at the forefront of the fight-back, by trying to make everyone more resilient to the challenges we are facing, with initiatives to save money and help secure a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

The group was started in 2007 by a small number of residents who were concerned about the increasing economic crises, dwindling fuel resources and climate change. They joined the national movement which looks to find local, grassroots solutions to these problems. In a very short time, TTF has grown rapidly and now has over 70 volunteers and members locally.

The board has expanded as well, and now has 12 directors bringing a wide range of skills and experience to the organisation. All directors either live in, or have close links with the Forres area, and come from all walks of life. They are also passionate about finding ways to make the community of Forres resilient to adverse changes in the environment.

One initiative which has grown in popularity is the monthly farmers’ market, which is due to start again on Saturday after a winter break. They are usually held on the second Saturday of every month in Anderson’s Primary playground but, this month, it will be held in the Drill Hall on the High Street opposite Grant Park. Once the weather warms up, the markets will be back outdoors. Shoppers can choose from a range of locally grown or produced food and crafts.

TTF board member, Jane Cotton, believes that a successful market means that local producers can thrive, which leads to more jobs. “It brings people into town to shop, which keeps the town centre healthy and everybody wins,” she said.

TTF also pionered a successful project to create allotments in the area, to encourage more people to grow their own food. The community garden at Bogton Road now has more than 50 people as members. The keen gardeners are growing a range of produce, from vegetables and salads to herbs, fruit and flowers.

“These are all being grown and the social life down there is growing too,” said Jane. “Growing your own food does not just bring health benefits and give you exercise – it saves you money as well. An average family can save around £150 a year.”

The pavilion at Bogton is also being upgraded, so that it can be used as an environmental centre, teaching and sharing skills on a whole range of subjects, from bees and composting to textile crafts and nutrition. The building will be heated by an energy saving biomass system.

“Saving energy not only means our fuel resources will last longer, but also brings us immediate financial savings,” said Jane. “Biomass may not be your option, but those who came along to the Energy Day held last month will know that there are many ways to improve energy consumption – and there are grants available at the moment for people in Forres to upgrade their homes and bring down their bills.”

Increasing petrol prices is also of concern, but TTF is on the case. The price of an energy efficient car is not within most people’s budgets, however, some of us may be able to car share on occasion and can see the benefit that brings. TTF members are looking at an up-to-date version of car sharing which is being tried in other parts of the country, where there is a pool of cars for use and you become a pool member. There will be more information about this at a later date.

Meantime, TTF are supporting the ‘Make and Mend group’, who meet regularly at the Forres House Community Centre to help people learn new skills.

“There is great satisfaction to be had in using your hands and brains to make things for yourself and your family,” said one of the group organisers. “Or to be able to fix something that is broken rather than throw it out and buy another, mass produced, item.”

Everyone is welcome to go along to learn and share all sorts of useful craft skills, as well as have a good old-fashioned chat.

To find out more, or be involved with the transition movement in Forres, contact Bill Race, TTF administrator on 01309 672244 , e-mail or visit the TTF website