Open Space Forum


Public Forum

Community ‘Open Space’ Forum

Sunday the 27th of November from 1.30 – 5.30pm

St James’ Church Hall, Rosefield
Place, Portobello


  1. Should Portobello reclaim the ex-Scottish Power site
    for the community?
  2. Can we meet the chal­lenge of cli­mate change and the
    end of cheap oil through build­ing a com­munity based on
    sus­tain­able energy & livelihoods?


Portobello Energy Descent and Land Reform Group (PEDAL),
Edinburgh, are organ­ising a Community ‘Open Space’
for­um for Sunday the 27th of November from
1.30 – 5.30pm. This will aim to build on the suc­cess of the
Portobello Campaign Against the Superstore. The pur­pose of
the day’s for­um is to devel­op a range of
ima­gin­at­ive ini­ti­at­ives — includ­ing pushing
for a com­munity buy out of the
super­store site —  as part of cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able future for Portobello,
and cre­at­ing a rad­ic­al urb­an role mod­el that other
com­munit­ies and cit­ies could follow.

At the heart of the for­um will be plans for community
use of a piece of land which was recently at the centre of
a fierce battle between the loc­al com­munity and
developers who wanted to build a super­store on it.
The super­store was very unpop­u­lar with loc­al people, and
the com­munity scored a vic­tory when plan­ning per­mis­sion was
refused at a pub­lic inquiry earli­er this year.
Unfortunately, though cur­rent legis­la­tion in Scotland gives
rur­al com­munit­ies the right to buy land they need to
sus­tain their way of life (e.g. the com­munity buy-out of
the Isle of Eigg in 2002); urb­an com­munit­ies do not have
this right.  PEDAL are hop­ing that the com­munity in
Portobello can put pres­sure on the Scottish Parliament to
change the law so that the com­munity can make constructive
use of this land.  One pos­sible future use for the
land would be to estab­lish socially afford­able and
eco­lo­gic­ally ima­gin­at­ive hous­ing as part of a broader
Sustainability Centre which might include a Centre for
Alternative Futures sim­il­ar to the Centre for Alternative
Technology in Wales, or the Eden Project in Cornwall. This
might include exhib­i­tion space focus­ing on sus­tain­able city
designs and hands-on exhib­its bring­ing togeth­er pressing
issues and com­munity solu­tions to prob­lems such as climate
change and the chal­lenge of trans­form­ing soci­ety from an
eco­nomy based on oil to one based on eco­lo­gic­ally and
socially sat­is­fy­ing and sus­tain­able prac­tices. Such a
Centre could cre­ate a range of new loc­al jobs and attract a
whole new form of urb­an eco­lo­gic­al tour­ism to the area. The
Centre could also provide a focus for the further
devel­op­ment of the com­munity sus­tain­ab­il­ity blueprint,
pos­sibly centred on a 15-year step by step Energy Descent
plan for Portobello.


We are pro­pos­ing a com­munity “Open
Space” for­um, to be held on Sunday
27th November 2005, 1.30 – 5.30 pm,
at St James’ Church Hall, Rosefield
Avenue, Portobello. The Open
Space meet­ing format which we will be
using for the pub­lic work­shop is designed to make meetings
fun. It is based on the mod­el of an exten­ded tea breakon
the assump­tion that the most use­ful and inter­est­ing part of
any work­shop or con­fer­ence is the tea break rather than the
import­ant speeches by the so-called experts! After a brief
ori­ent­a­tion to the themes, pur­pose and struc­ture of the
Forum, we will break into small dis­cus­sion groups — each
focus­ing on dif­fer­ent themes people will have iden­ti­fied as
import­ant at the start of the work­shop. The idea is that
these dis­cus­sions will be facil­it­ated but that people will
move between these groups. The main points of each groups
dis­cus­sions will be recor­ded on a flip chart and both the
dis­cus­sion and sug­ges­ted plans for action will be reported
back to the whole group at the end of the work­shop. In this
way we hope that an inclus­ive Energy Descent Plan might be
cre­ated by and for the Portobello community.

The first of these Energy Descent Plans was cre­ated last
year in the town of Kinsale in the west of Ireland, and the
idea has spread inter­na­tion­ally since then. At Kinsale
par­ti­cipants focused on the need to address the prob­lem of
Peak Oil. Peak Oil refers to a time, pos­sibly in the near
future, pos­sibly already upon us, when all the easily
avail­able oil has been used up. From that point in time oil
prices will increase to the point where our cur­rent way of
life becomes impossible. This is not sci­ence fic­tion: it is
being dis­cussed as a real prob­lem by gov­ern­ments across the
world, because we not only use oil to drive ourselves
around — the way we live today relies almost entirely on
oil.  Our food is trans­por­ted using oil; the
fer­til­isers and pesti­cides used on it are oil-based, and
the farm equip­ment which har­vests it could not be made
without oil. From medi­cines to the raw mater­i­als for
build­ing houses, we rely on oil for much of what we need to
sus­tain our cur­rent lifestyles.

Because we rely for our food on super­mar­kets that get
their sup­plies from all over the world, rather than from
loc­al farm­ers or mar­ket gar­dens, we could be very
vul­ner­able even in short term crisis
situ­ations.  As the tra­gic recent events in New
Orleans showed, com­munit­ies who are not adequately prepared
and can­not pull togeth­er, can end up help­less and self
destruct­ive instead of mutu­ally supportive.

Kinsale par­ti­cipants worked to devel­op a 15-year Energy
Decent Plan to help the com­munity take a step-by-step
approach to redu­cing its reli­ance on oil. In
this approach, par­ti­cipants look at a range of areas of
import­ance to their com­munity (such as food production,
energy pro­duc­tion, trans­port, hous­ing, live­li­hoods…) and
gen­er­ate ideas about how to use pro­gress­ively less energy
in meet­ing their needs.  This offers a new mod­el for
com­munit­ies to make changes which address mount­ing threats
such as cli­mate change and peak oil in a way which will not
only give them the best chance to suc­cess­fully manage
poten­tial future crisis situ­ations, but also increases
com­munity cohe­sion and empower­ment in the meantime.
In a time when cent­ral gov­ern­ment seems
unwill­ing to take ser­i­ous action on these issues, and
indi­vidu­al action can feel woe­fully inad­equate, community
action of this kind is inspir­ing and empowering.

Community ‘Open Space’ Forum

Sunday the 27th of November from 1.30 – 5.30pm

St James’ Church Hall, Rosefield
Place, Portobello


Showing of The End of

Saturday 26th November: 5.30 -

Evergreen, Portobello High Street

There will also be a show­ing of The
End of Suburbia
the day before the
work­shop, which you are wel­come to see. It is a film about
the pos­sible con­sequences of Peak Oil on the lives of
ordin­ary people in America, which has clear implications
for all of us. This will be shown at Evergreen, Portobello
High Street on Saturday 26th November: 5.30 -