Living history

THE ‘living history’ OF CoSE

In the year 2000 the City of Arnhem had decided to buy (a great part of) our private homes in one of the fourty ‘most deprived’ neighborhoods of the Netherlands, demolish them and replace them by new ones. We as home-owners did not agree and founded our House-Owners Union ‘De Stoere Houtman’. We started to make our own plans, but now in co-operation with the City. The plans are focussed not only on the improvement of the existing homes (old buildings) and the development of new homes, but also on the development of an energy-neutral system, both for our homes (e.g. well isolated  houses on renewable energy-sources, co-ownership of a windmill, etc.) and for our transport (cycling, public transport, electric car share system feeded by green sources).

Because we dared to mention Hydrogen (H2) as a possible way to store our energy, De Stoere Houtman drawed the attention of international community and soon became member of the European Hydrogen Platform. During 2008-2010 De Stoere Houtman participated in the EU-sponsored programme PATH-to- RES (nr. EIE/07/068/SI2.466697) with authorities of Dunkirk, Gdansk, Gothenborg, Lochem and Valencia. This PATH-programme provided us a roadmap towards 2020 and 2050 to realize our ambitions (the 10 Stoere Houtman Statements). And this PATH-programme also inspired us (because the PATH-partners had no contacts at all with communities of residents) for the establishment of an European network of ‘Communities of a Sustainable Europe (CoSE)’, explicitely runned by residents

Participants in the CoSE-network were met by looking around on Google, by PATH-contacts and by personal visits. CoSE counts now six participants, namely the village of Ashton Hayes in UK, the small town of Beckerich in Luxemburg, the village of Nebusice near Prague (Czech Republic), the village of Jabuka near Belgrade in Serbia, an urban neighborhood in the small town of Reda near Gdansk in Poland and the urban neighborhood of De Stoere Houtman in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Some communities, like Ashton Hayes and Beckerich have very developed and executed plans, while other communities, like Jabuka, Nebusice and Reda have strong ambitions and while De Stoere Houtman is somewhere in-between!

The interest of De Stoere Houtman for CoSE is establishing a sustainable community within a sustainable Europe, by learning from others and by exchanging experiences with others.  An important step for De Stoere Houtman will be the development of the new houses with an energy-neutral system, designed and constructed by the future residents, with help of an European Architecture Competition.
Because ‘our’ local and regional authorities did not show very much attention yet for our bottom-up approach and for co-financing, we were not able yet to draw the attention of the EU. Therefor we are glad that we have now received support of the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Environment to produce a manual for CoSE.

Because the production of this manual with guidelines, ‘road-maps’, and inspiring practices of conversion towards energy-neutral communities will also provide the development of the CoSE-network (the growth with new members – more than 10 new members for example only in the Netherlands are expecting shortly to apply; the intensification of exchange of dreams, expertise and good practices; recognition by the EU and other authorities; the improvement of its public relations towards other communities in Europe) is the production of a CoSE-Manual, that provides guidelines, ‘road-maps’ and inspiring examples of conversion towards energy-neutral communities.

So, this CoSE-Manual can now be produced, thanks to this grant of the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Environment and thanks to an additional grant by De Stoere Houtman itself (the last contribution is for the participatory involvement of the membership of De Stoere Houtman in the production process of the CoSE-Manual).

For the production of the CoSE-Manual we are now able to hire expertise of the same agency, that helped us before with a feasibility-study for an energy-neutral system in our own neighborhood. With a standard questionary we will visit the other five communities and formulate with them the answers. We will help the three ‘new’ communities of Jabuka, Nebusice and Reda by attending two community-evenings: the first to inform them what happens elsewhere AND to make them dream about – and to make an inventory of the options for their plan and the next evening to prioritise the options into an outline for the own community-plan. Besides two ‘partners-workshops’ are foreseen, one at De Stoere Houtman in Arnhem (NL) in April, immediately after the SEE-event in Brussels and one in Beckerich in Autumn 2011 to launch the Manual, including the interactive website. Meanwhile the bottom-up CoSE-approach is disseminated (for this it is quite helpful that Jaap Huurman very recently got the assignment for the program-leadership of ‘Sustainable Villages’ in the Dutch Province of Overijssel). Therefor we hope to contact other European networks, like the Council of Europe of local and regional authorities.

The coming text is written in Reda where Jaap Huurman was received by a delegation of the Reda-partner and by the Mayor very warmly last Saturdaynight. Yesterday he paid a visit to the neighborhood, called Bethlehem, where families walked with him from house to house, visiting new friends, which they had never visited before!
This evening and Tuesday-evening we will have Community-meetings to make a start with designing an Action-Plan for ‘Sustainable Bethlehem’  and dividing tasks.

Moreover, Jaap Huurman will have meetings these days with the Polytechnic University of Gdansk, with an Environmental NGO (one of the staff members live in Bethlehem!) and with the Vojvodship. A new development is namely that the Province of Overijssel is willing to co-operate with other Regions (with the help of ‘its own’  (Saxion-)University and Provincial Environmental NGO) on facilitating local communities with making their sustainability plans and use therefore also co-operations between universities (students do small examinations and studies for the local communities and students exchange).
Jaap Huurman will briefly present the Overijssel Energy Policies and the CoSE-network this Thursday at the Seminar of the Pomorskie Vojvodship in Gdansk, ‘National Renewable Action Plan – implementing local and regional energy actions for achieving the EU RES Directive’
The Province is planning to participate in the EU Open Days with several regions, 11-13 October 2011 where the CoSE-manual will be presented.
Already in this Sustainable Energy Europe Week the Province wants to present its Sustainable Energy Program ‘ Energy Pact’ including the sub-program of ‘Sustainable Villages’  with the ‘winner’  of last year, Hoonhorst. More information about this provincial program you find on http://www.overijssel.nl/thema’s/milieu/energiepact/duurzaam-dorp/
Other latest developments are:

  • When visiting Ashton Hayes (UK) also another British initiative was visited: Sustainable Blacon, a ‘deprived’ neighborhood (like De Stoere Houtman) in Chester which is enthusiast to join the CoSE-network: http://www.sustainableblacon.org.uk/
  • By incident (a friend of a friend on a birthday-party!) I heart about an initiative in France, http://www.measolle.com/, and the appointment is already made with the friend to visit this French community together and invite them for CoSE. Within a few weeks the contacts with Measolle were made!
  • In May the partner in Serbia will be visited.

The CoSE-meeting in Holland, 14-17 April 2011, will be combined with the participation of several CoSE-partners in the Clean Energy Market of Overijssel for new community-initiatives on Saturday 16 April in Deventer. Among them will anyway be Measolle, Beckerich and Ashton Hayes.

Arnhem, 22nd of March, 2011,
Jaap Huurman

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