Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Geopark scoops top sustainable tourism award

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The GREBE Project congratulates the internationally renowned Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark who scooped the Sustainable Tourism award at the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards recently.  The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopartk is located in Fermanagh & Omagh District Council area.  The awards, which were organised by Tourism NI and hosted at Enniskillen Castle on Thursday 18 May 2017, recognise excellence and innovation within the tourism industry.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, the Council’s Director of Community Health and Leisure, Robert Gibson said:

“I am delighted that Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has been successful in this category. It is one of the Council’s flagship tourism facilities and this award is an endorsement of the Council’s efforts in managing and developing the UNESCO Global Geopark’s beautiful landscapes with great care and environmental sensitivity, while building a global tourism product that benefits local communities through trade, employment and improving access to the local environment.”

Mr Gibson added:

“the success of the other tourism facilities within the district at the awards is indicative of the superb tourism product on offer here in the Fermanagh and Omagh area.”

The awards ceremony recognised tourism facilities and individuals across 13 different categories. The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark was one of two category winners from the Fermanagh and Omagh district on the night with Finn Lough Forest Domes securing the Unique Tourism Accommodation award. Other locally based tourism facilities and businesses also enjoyed success at the awards with Belle Isle Castle and Private Island being Highly Commended and National Trust Fermanagh Florencecourt, Fermanagh Self Catering and Erne Water Taxis commended in their respective categories.

For further information on the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark , please contact Marble Arch Caves Visitor Centre by telephone on 028 6634 8855 or visit Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark.

South West College in Northern Ireland lead the Digital and Environmental Skills for Facilities Management (DEFMA) Project

DEFMA

The DEFMA project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, which involves the development and making available of educational resources & materials for facility managers that aim to address the existing occupational digital and green skills needs and strengthen the employability of the profession across the EU.

South West College in Northern Ireland are the lead partner in the project which commenced last Autumn and will be completed in March 2019.  South West College is also an associated partner of the GREBE Project. DEFMA is being implemented by a partnership of five partners from five countries. The composition of the consortium guarantees that all aspects of the work plan are carried out in a competent way, ensuring high quality outcomes and efficient and effective working methods.

The Consortium of the DEFMA project consists of the following organizations:

  1. SWC -South West College, United Kingdom
  2. PROMEA -The Hellenic Society for the Promotion of Research and Development Methodologies, Greece
  3. SNS –Scuola Nazionale Servizi Foundation alongside Facility Management companies, Italy
  4. BGFMA -Bulgarian Facility Management Association, Bulgaria
  5. VSRC -Vilnius Builders Training Centre, Lithuania

The main objective of DEFMA is to develop and make available to stakeholders, organizations and companies, a novel training program on sustainable environmental management that will empower facility managers with a new skill set of competences related to energy efficiency technologies and building sustainability issues, connecting in this way Vocational Education and Training programmes with the needs of the sustainable building sector. At the same time, the DEFMA project will facilitate the validation of developed earning outcomes at European level.

Facility managers, apart from technical and management competencies, require a combination of digital and environmental skills to be able to maintain high-performance buildings capable of significantly reducing energy and water consumption. There is thus an increasing need to equip facilities managers with the skills and capacities required to:

a) support carbon emission reduction measures,

b) monitor resources consumption,

c) use “smart” building controls and up-to-date environmental technology systems (e.g. building automation),

d) identify energy losses and water leaks, rectify small faults, and carryout simple maintenances.

The project will address this challenge by increasing the relevance of VET provision for facilities managers to match their competences and skills with environmental and sustainability needs of the built environment and promote employability and mobility within the sector.

The development of the DEFMA curriculum and all related educational resources are expected to be completed in the upcoming months. It’s worth noting that all educational resources (learning units, educational material, training manuals) will be freely available online for non-profit use in the form of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

Further information can be obtained from the project coordinator at South West College at defmaproject@gmail.com or on the website http://www.defma-project.eu/

Fermanagh & Omagh District Council Community Plan launched

Themes and outcomes 3

Following an extensive public consultation exercise in October/November 2016, we have finalised the first Community Plan for our district – Fermanagh and Omagh 2030 – and launched it at the end of March.

The Community Plan is a long-term strategic plan for our area which will be owned and delivered by the Community Planning Partnership comprising a range of statutory and support partners with the Council as lead partner.

The Community Plan will be supported by three detailed Action Plans, which we aim to publish by the summer of 2017. Together these will focus on achieving our Vision and Outcomes.

Detailed action planning is due to progress shortly based around the strategic actions which we consulted upon and, in line with the partnership ethos of the Plan, these will be led by the following agencies:

  • People and Communities: Western Health and Social Care Trust & Public Health Agency – in conjunction with FODC Director of Community, Health and Leisure
  • Economy, Infrastructure and Skills: Invest NI – in conjunction with FODC Director of Regeneration and Planning
  • Environment: Sport NI – in conjunction with FODC Director of Environment and Place.

The Community Plan will be managed using an Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) approach, in line with the draft Programme for Government and training on this will be rolled out in the near future.  Information sessions on the Community Plan and how the Council’s Corporate Plan align to this will be scheduled for all staff.

For further information please contact Kim Weir, Community Planning and Performance (kim.weir@fermanaghomagh.com).

SSE plans Doraville Wind Farm facelift

Doraville Windfarm

SSE is to reduce turbine numbers and redesign the layout at its proposed up to 115MW Doraville wind farm in Northern Ireland.

The utility-developer is to file the new plans with Belfast’s Department for Infrastructure in response to a request for further planning information for the Tyrone project.  A reduction in turbine numbers from 36 to 33 is being envisaged, as is a new hardware layout plan.  SSE is to kick-off a further round of public consultation on the changes.

It first unveiled the project – that is yet to secure planning approval – in 2014.   SSE community liaison officer Vicky Boden said the company has made the “important revisions” after “listening to suggestions and concerns” raised during planning. “We believe this new design responds to those concerns, providing the maximum environmental protection balanced with delivering the best proposal that can go forward to help all of us meet the challenge of climate change,” she added.

Service users of ARC Healthy Living Centre in Irvinestown benefit from energy efficiency measures

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ARC Healthy Living Centre is a not-for-profit community organisation, governed by a voluntary board of directors and working across one of the most rural parts of the UK. Each week they support families, young people and adults to learn new skills, improve their health and well-being, find employment and develop confidence to achieve their goals and transform their lives. ARC has a long established ethos of inclusion and positive expectation. 

The ARC Healthy Living Centre are delivering needs based services to vulnerable people and are constantly struggling to meet their running costs. They need to maintain constant temperatures in their buildings to suit their service users, primarily babies and young children in the new build and adults with long term conditions in the original build.

Recognising that they had to manage their heat demand into the future, in late 2014 they chose to move to a biomass system, as a long term outcome to reduce their costs and reduce their carbon footprint. The move to renewable energy was based on more than financial assumptions. Their commitment to protecting the environment and to move away from harmful fossil fuels was of key importance. Wood fuel is a ‘low carbon’ fuel that produces a fraction of the emissions of fossil fuels. The critical difference between biomass fuels and fossil fuels is the type of carbon emitted: biomass fuel releases contemporary carbon, whereas fossil fuel releases fossilized carbon. In addition to the environmental reasons, they were a hostage to fluctuating oil prices.  As with most households and businesses locally when oil prices were high they were subject to oil theft.

In February 2015 they went out to tender for suitable installers and in June 2015 had the new system fitted and commissioned. The installation of the biomass boiler was prompted by the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  The RHI aimed to encourage organisations to generate heat from renewable technologies. The RHI pays participants of the scheme for generating renewable heat and using it in their buildings and processes. Proving that the ARC met the requirements of the RHI was based on the establishment of facts and evidence, eligible heat output has to be determined and verified. On 31st August 2015 they obtained RHI accreditation.

The RHI on their new system will not cover installation costs for many years. Used ethically and correctly this system does not generate huge financial gains. The buildings have heat management systems and climate controls so therefore cannot be over heated. With the new system they have in fact reduced the heat demand, continued, maintained underfloor heating run from the biomass system has avoided the continual rationing and subsequent boosting that rendered the previous oil system so inefficient, and supplementary heaters are now seldom required. They have welcomed the media and public interest in this story, and ARC is happy to comply with any additional inspection or monitoring that is introduced as a result of the current publicity in around the RHI scheme.

The ARC Healthy Living Centre remains committed to supporting rural people experiencing fuel poverty and is working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in the design of a road map for innovation within the energy sector.  The development of such community energy schemes could lead to: a reduction in fuel poverty, the development of a secure and affordable energy supply for those who may be deemed as vulnerable, improved energy efficiency and ultimately improved physical and social well-being of rural communities.

GREBE Policy Workshops in 2017

Finland Policy workshop
Michael Doran of Action Renewables

Action Renewables is the lead partner for Work Package 3 on Policy and Funding Mechanisms, within the GREBE project.   Part of this work package is to organise policy workshops in each partner region. To date Action Renewables has participated in five policy workshops.  Since the start of 2017, there have been three workshops in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland.  The purpose of these workshops is to involve and support stakeholders within the renewable energy sector.

During the workshops we discuss the advantages / disadvantages of local policies for that area and discuss how they can be improved to help the economy. The policy workshops will involve representatives of relevant bodies and Government departments that set the renewable energy policy agendas.  Each policy workshop has been different.  The reason for this, the conditions within each country are different and they are different policies.  All of the policy workshops were chaired by Michael Doran and Mark Corrigan of Action Renewables.   Our Norwegian partner Narvik Science Park which hold a policy workshop in April and it is our intention all will be completed before June 2017. We will then have a list of potential new policy mechanisms which will support different partner regions.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland policy workshop was hosted by South West College at their Dungannon campus on the 11th January.   For this workshop we had 10 representatives, who came from different sectors throughout Northern Ireland, including the Department of Environment, Invest NI, Fermanagh Omagh District Council, Fermanagh Enterprise and the Ulster Farmers Union.

This policy workshop focussed on the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland and the lack of new policy development, and how this will have an impact on the economy.  Northern Ireland will have no policy supports for the sector after the 31st of March 2017.

Scotland

Action Renewables chaired the Scotland policy workshop on the 26th January.  This workshop was organised by the University of Highlands & Islands and was held in Inverness.   For this policy workshop, we had the privilege of four guest speakers

  • HWenergy provided an “Overview of current renewable energy policies and constraints”,
  • Scottish Enterprise on “The solutions that exist within Highland & Island Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise”,
  • Local Energy Scotland, on “Community participation in RE” and
  • Community Energy Scotland on “Communities constrained by the existing policies”

Scotland are very advanced on policies that support the renewable energy sector.  To date Scotland have 18 policy mechanisms, which support the sector and is a popular area for wind and hydro.  Many of their support mechanisms are for SMEs looking to enter the renewable energy industry.

Finland

Finlands policy workshop took place in Joensuu on the 9th February.   Finland is mainly focused on its forestry sector, so therefore biomass is their main focus.  At the policy workshop we had 12 participants from a variety of different sectors. We also had the honour of the following guest speakers:

  • Regional Council of North Karelia – Presenter Anniina Kontiokorpi outlined how they are preparing an implementation plan (roadmap) for North Karelia to achieve ambitious aims established in their Climate and Energy Program.
  • Mayor Asko Saatsi from the City of Nurmes – In Nurmes, bioenergy projects (bio refineries) are essential part of local development strategy.
  • Mika Juvonen, CEO/Bio10 Ltd. – Mika Juvonen has established organic waste treatment/biogas plant in Kitee.  He has been actively informing policies and been able to reduce barriers identified in sector.

OASIS Plaza scoops a major award at the CEEQUAL 2016 Awards in London

oasis-plaza-omagh

The OASIS Plaza in Omagh (Omagh Accessible Shared & Inclusive Space) has scooped an Outstanding Achievement Award at the CEEQUAL 2016 Awards held in London on 28-29 November 2016. The OASIS Plaza project beat off stiff competition from several nominated projects to take the outstanding achievement award in the category for ‘Community and Stakeholder Relations’.

The £4.345m project, which was officially opened by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in June 2015 and was funded through the EU Peace III programme, managed by the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB), was designed by McAdam Design and built by FP McCann Contractors. The Outstanding Achievement Award for Community and Stakeholder Relations recognised the contribution of both the design team and the finished build and in particular the involvement of the local community, school children and companies from the project’s construction to its finishing touches.

CEEQUAL is the evidence-based sustainability assessment, rating and awards scheme for civil engineering, infrastructure, landscaping and public realm projects. It promotes and celebrates high environmental and social performance in the specification, design and construction of civil engineering works. The CEEQUAL Outstanding Achievement Awards recognise and acknowledge projects that demonstrate pinnacle best-practice performance and highlight some of the top sustainability achievements by civil engineering projects in countries around the world.

The Judging Panel described the OASIS project as having a “great concept” with the potential to really make a difference. The Panel Members stated, “This Scheme has made a big statement on how to bring communities together – it is a landmark in the development of community interaction. All sections of the community and stakeholder groups were engaged in all aspects of the project, from development to delivery.”

The OASIS Project includes a riverside pedestrian and cycle path along the banks of the River Strule, a Plaza, a link across the Strule River with a new pedestrian/cycle bridge and an elevated walkway into Omagh town centre. The Project has successfully joined the town up logistically and reduced the need for car travel. It segregates traffic and pedestrians, provides green spaces, and encourages trade in the town.

The aim of the OASIS Project is to enhance the physical and psychological links between disparate communities in Omagh Town. It provides safe, neutral, shared open spaces that increase opportunities for interaction through work and recreation. It reclaimed underused and unwelcome spaces and previously inaccessible lands within the town.

Since its official opening the OASIS Plaza has been the venue for several large-scale events, such as the St Patrick’s Day Festival, the Mid-Summer Carnival, the Halloween event, and other sporting events such as the Irish National Cycling Championships in 2015. Notably the Peace Pledge Project, launched in September 2015, witnessed 46 schools from across the Omagh area, representing primary, post-primary, controlled, maintained, integrated, Irish medium and Special Needs placing 46 stainless steel peace pledge plaques at the Plaza, each bearing a pledge to work towards peace and respect.

Speaking after the Awards Ceremony, the Chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Mary Garrity said,

“I was absolutely delighted to be a member of the Party representing the Council at the Awards Ceremony in London and to receive the Community and Stakeholder Relations Outstanding Achievement Award was the icing on the cake. Given that the CEEQUAL Awards are recognising projects from around the world, we were delighted that the OASIS Plaza had been shortlisted but to actually be a winner was absolutely amazing and testament to the outstanding work of the collaborative efforts of the Council, the Design Team and the Contractors. I wish to personally thank and congratulate McAdam Design and FP McCann for the sterling work they undertook with the Council to make the OASIS Project an internationally recognised shared space and CEEQUAL Award winner. I would also like to personally thank the Council’s Director of Regeneration and Planning, Ms Alison McCullagh, for her involvement and dedication to the project.”