Theme: Vision for Moray
Our vision and big idea for Moray is that it becomes a leading demonstration council area in Scotland (and in Europe) in terms of climate resilient, flourishing new (green) economy, demonstrating the empowerment and resilience of entrepreneurial, socially inclusive, community-led, net zero, ecologically regenerative development and innovation. In order to achieve this, Moray can start with a very effective planning action – supporting a unique, existing demonstration site of world-leading social and ecological innovation, The Park Ecovillage Findhorn.*
This support could come in the form of flexible planning that:
supports the community buy out process that has already been accepted into Stage 1 of the Scotland Land Fund process (support of up to 1 million GBP) led by Ecovillage Findhorn Community Benefit Society, a friendly buy-out from the Findhorn Foundation.
maximises the site’s overall opportunity to innovate for a regenerative future, with flexible planning – helping Moray shine, by demonstrating that future.
Moray Council innovation-focused and flexible planning will encourage and allow tangible ecological-economic development projects combined with social, community and economic renewal, and job creation via community led leadership and democratic empowerment.
The Ecovillage demonstration site, with a new community ownership-leadership model for renewal, and in excellent exchange with Moray of mutual support and benefit, can unleash the power of people to help Moray become a beacon for, and adapted to, the future world, with climate resilience, forward-facing thinking and community democratic empowerment, as key components.
The new demonstration site model includes:
Resident community/social empowerment and leadership alignment
Appropriate planning and balanced space/site development
Financial and economic inclusion for everyone
Economic empowerment and economically generative practice
Rural recovery and regenerative innovation
Place-based holistic education for sustainable and regenerative change, reaching out to inspire and learn from other communities in Moray
Thriving, regenerative, inclusive, sustainable community, in deep harmony with nature, observing strong ethical values and fostering diverse cultural and spiritual expressions.
This vision, big idea and development site could be a stepping stone toward Moray’s becoming a leader in Scotland and beyond, generating a thriving place for people to live meaningful, socially connected, tangibly effective, happy lives, building and creating a sustainable future together.
*The Ecovillage has been a site of the UN CIFAL training centre (one of only thirty globally and six in Europe) with large volumes of Scottish council planners coming through their low carbon courses. In 2014, Christiana Figueres (the most senior UN diplomat behind the Paris 2015 COP agreement between 190 countries) held senior investor off-sites at the Ecovillage, and Paul Dickinson, Chair of the CDP (the leading net zero and Paris-aligned carbon pressure group on institutional investors) held repeat net zero and just transition collaboration groups (The Investor Agenda) at the Ecovillage for major investors, banks and asset managers, helping move billions of assets globally toward a just transition, Paris-aligned and a net-zero world (a precursor to Mark Carney’s TFCD and Glasgow Alliance). Recently, our ecological co-housing at East Whins, Findhorn was pictured on the front cover of the 6th IPCC Assessment Report on the mitigation of Climate Change at the UN COP 27, the world’s most important climate conference. Park Ecovillage Findhorn was the birthplace of and has ongoing strong links to The Global Ecovillage Network.
Theme: Better Neighbourhoods/community
Resident community/social empowerment and leadership alignment – aligning ownership of assets with resident community member leadership and visioning for those assets, unlocking full community potential via democratic inclusion. Stage 1 SLF already granted.
Demographics – we would like to encourage more young people and families to live at The Park by the provision of more affordable eco-homes and employment opportunities, we welcome diversity, and despite our older-than-average age range at present, we have our own well-supported Caring Community Circle which takes pressure off local services. As part of the wider innovation of our ecovillage, we want to pioneer healthy places of play for our children that promote physical and mental wellbeing, social skills, problem-solving, confidence and creativity. Nature-based play has been shown to encourage such development whilst also encouraging an awareness of nature connection and climate resilience. The families would like a family zone with outside and inside play areas, somewhere to cook and eat together, a community garden space, work spaces and place for the family boutique.
Resilience – we are currently working with innovative neighbourhood models on The Park as the basis for our emergency resilience plan and community governance.
Entrance (See Map reference (A)) – we would like to enhance the appearance of the entrance to The Park with new landscaping and new areas of planting, ideally native and other wildlife friendly and attractive varieties. We would also like to make some changes to the road layout and parking, which would make it more pedestrian friendly with better accessibility for all.
Community Centre & Sanctuary (Map ref (B) – the community would like to prioritise the rebuilding of the Community Centre and Sanctuary in any upcoming development, as they provide both a source of well-being and social cohesion (connecting residents, guests and visitors) and also help support the local economy, providing work and services such as cafe and hireable meeting space. Consultation has made clear that the majority of the resident community wish to rebuild both on their original sites.
Car parking/roads/runway – we would like to provide an extended car park for visitors and guests by revisiting a previous agreement with neighbouring Cullerne Farm (Map ref (C)). The present system of parking on the runway could be eliminated, increasing safety for pedestrians, children who play in the area, and bicycles. We wish to create disabled parking spaces near the Universal Hall, our main arts venue. A system such as golf carts might be considered if necessary for visitors moving around the site. Permits for residents could be issued for parking spaces in the different neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood has a cul-de-sac, turnarounds or dead ends so that some privacy is maintained and public areas are well-defined with signage – there are no roads circling around the Park and we wish to continue this tradition for the definition of private residential space versus public space, an established principle in architecture and co-housing. We have comparatively low traffic volumes and promote low car ownership throughout the Park (assisted by Moray Carshare, a shared vehicle cooperative based on The Park) and do not wish to expand the Park road network.
Cooperation – we recognise the importance of working cooperatively with all our neighbours including the MOD, FKCC, nature reserves, farms.
Theme: Tackling climate and nature crises
Essential – we regard tackling climate and nature crises as essential to our whole purpose and ethos and we recognise and hope to demonstrate that our relationships with the interconnected web of all life are essential to the wellbeing of all. We seek to ensure that all relevant Moray Council policies (EP1 and EP2) are fully complied with and that we work to enhance biodiversity on The Park, through protection and enhancement of habitat, for example through provision of bird and bat boxes and creation of more habitat areas. The Park has substantial areas of woodland which we would like to both maintain and enhance with management to increase native species. We would argue what is needed is a more connective and collaborative culture with each other, the wildlife, flora and fauna and the land around us to support us to be more resilient in facing the climate changes already underway and fully appreciate Moray Council’s Declaration of a Nature Emergency in 2023. In response to Moray Council Nature Crisis, Park Ecovillage Findhorn is exploring alignment with the movement to give nature a voice in governance.
Connection – large areas of The Park are used as wildlife corridors and habitats, for example palmate newts in the Park Garden pond (Map ref (D)). We seek to join up community green spaces, gardens and wild areas and consider how they are managed, for example ‘no mow May’, and enhancing and increasing areas of species rich grassland. We seek to fully comply with Moray Council Tree & Woodland Removal / Compensatory planning Policy EP7 which has a ‘strong presumption in favour of protecting woodland resources’. They support ‘key habitat links that ‘support native woodland flora and fauna species to move through the landscape strengthening their populations. Breaking the links results in isolation and increases the risk of local extinction.
Rare and protected species – we are conscious that The Park is home to a number of rare/scarce/protected species, for example, red squirrel, pine marten, badger, hedgehog, toad species, newt species, hare, Pipistrelle species, several red/amber list bird species such as curlew, rare fungi and rare lichen such as Peltigera malacea.
Building regional resilience partnerships – it is essential that all adaptation and biodiversity work is planned with neighbours and on a bio-regional scale.
Entrance and Holiday Park – both of these are situated in or very near to a SEPA-identified flood risk zone, between the Bay and the rest of The Park, so there is concern about flood-risk in this area. This area houses not only holiday visitors but also the ‘Living Machine’, the innovative process which treats effluent coming off The Park. To protect this area we need to explore fully both adaptation and mitigation measures. This area provides a good opportunity to develop and demonstrate how a community can respond well to climate change, with enhanced planting of flood and salt tolerant species in purpose-designed floodable wetlands, which could also enhance species diversity e.g. dragonflies. These areas would incorporate boardwalks and interpretation boards to help educate people about nature and climate. We would also like to be innovative with the replacement of some buildings and caravans with more sustainable flood-resistant buildings, as we both experiment with mitigation and adaptation as responses to the threat of flood. We wish to explore with our neighbours, including MOD, FKCC, Cullerne Farm, ways to mitigate, and possible emergency access routes to the peninsula
Pollution – the recycling of human waste needs to be researched and developed beyond the level of the current ‘Living Machine’ system.
Regenerative innovation and food resilience – we would like to model farm-to-table, regenerative, resilient, low carbon, local food production combined with local food consumption and “front of house” cooking jobs and skills, with waste back to farm for circular economy and further micro-business opportunities. We wish to demonstrate renewables/passive solar enhanced local food production (combining nature and science/technology to maximise Moray food resilience in a rapidly changing climate and biodiversity stressed world. We propose the practice of pollinator, soil microbiome enhanced, climate resilient, soil fertility based local growing, modelling how to work with ‘mother nature’, underpinning all life on earth and ecosystem rather than against, for a resilient future. Food production and all other activities need to be undertaken in the context of a deep understanding of our complete identity with and dependence on the whole environment. We think this will attract young people to the land. We aim to maximise regenerative food production throughout the Park and in cooperation with neighbours.
Community composting – food and green waste can best be composted on 3 or 4 sites through the Park using Ridan or similar hand-powered composters to minimise both the capital cost and the economic and environmental cost of collection of food waste, a generally unconsidered aspect of ‘food miles’.
Just Transition Fund – the community recently completed 4 feasibility studies financed by the JTF to put the community forward to contribute to the fund’s tri-fold aims of reducing carbon emissions, increasing resilience, and creating green jobs in Moray and Scotland more broadly. A number of proposed projects emanated from the feasibility studies. Some of these will be ‘firsts’ for Scotland, one of which includes retrofitting a neighbourhood of freestanding, existing homes with ground source district heating to remove LPG from the equation, another is to create affordable, self-build homes within a greenhouse structure (Naturhaus) which affords savings of up to 50% on conventional homes’ heating costs, and the growing space within the “Nature Houses” potentially reduces the costs and carbon footprint of the residents’ food consumption. The third assessed a combination of new technologies including a Low Voltage electrical microgrid, the latest battery and thermal storage, plus smart grid technologies designed to balance the load. Finally, the Building a Local and Resilient Food Economy project forecasts potential carbon emission savings of up to 22 tons in year one alone and a significant increase in production of vegetables under organic methods and pasture-fed meat.
Positive energy district – Findhorn Innovation Research & Education CIC continue to innovate and have just received over £300k funding for further technical studies to help enable The Park Ecovillage to become a Positive Energy District (A PED is an area that produces at least as much energy on an annual basis as it consumes – the purpose of a PED is not to be an island isolated from the rest of the energy system but rather a functional and flexible part of the larger whole).
Carbon Neutral – from 2015 (with the exception of the two Covid years) Park Ecovillage Trust has been responsible for measuring the emissions of the Findhorn Ecovillage. Our largest emissions emanate from flying, driving, food and the use of computers. Most of these being indirect emissions. The Ecovillage community is aiming to reduce its emissions to net zero – this means reducing all emissions that can be reduced and offsetting the remainder. We will reduce our direct carbon emissions from heating, use of fossil fuels and electricity to net zero by 2032, and our indirect emissions by 2045. Findhorn Wind Park Ltd began producing renewable power for Findhorn Ecovillage in 2006 and have helped to significantly lower the community’s ecological footprint.
Learning – Pineridge could provide educational opportunities as a demonstration site in Park Ecovillage, Moray and beyond showing how to prevent biodiversity loss in marginal human settlements and indicate new ways of living to help different species thrive in alignment with the goals of Scottish National Planning Framework 4.
Theme: Safeguarding open spaces and landscapes
Diamond Wood (marked with dashed line) – during recent community consultations, it was clear that despite a proposal to build the new community centre in Diamond Wood, most of the community do not want this (almost 80% did not vote for this). We think this is an important part of the Park to preserve and enhance, as it has both huge amenity value, and acts as a wildlife corridor for protected species such as red squirrels to move across The Park. It is our very own small scale ‘central park’ and adds to the well-being of people and planet. We know trees help to reduce temperatures as well as providing habitat and would like to see the number of native species enhanced – there are some Scots Pines, and we would like to manage the woodland so that eventually the non-indigenous species such as Corsican Pine are replaced with natives. Diamond Wood is listed in the National Forest Inventory.
Pineridge Central Area Woodland (marked with dashed line) – we wish to safeguard the central areas of Pineridge against all development. This is a place of spiritual and emotional importance for many with the Quiet Garden, the renowned and unique Nature Sanctuary, and the Earth Lodge. It has been described as the ‘Green jewel’ in the Ecovillage’s crown and the ‘lungs of the community’. The habitat contains majestic mature trees that give it a totally different atmosphere to other parts of the ecovillage and which bring woodland birds and animals right into the human settlement. Visitors and residents alike are attracted to it because of the peace and solace many find here.It is also a vitally important part of the wildlife corridors running east/west and north/south.
Solum, Field of Dreams (marked with dashed line) – we would like to see this area of common ground (which includes the triangular area of land behind houses 415 and 416 and the green buffer strip between houses 413, 414, 415) protected as an open space. This is part of the large area of green spaces/ common ground that FF purchased from EVL for a nominal £1 at the end of building the Field of Dreams on the understanding that they would be held in trust for the community as common ground. These areas have been common ground for >20 years. This area contains: wildlife corridor, footpaths, community composting area, memorial trees for births, deaths and marriages. We note that Sean Reed (local ecologist) also recommends keeping this area in his recent report (March 2023) prepared for the FF.
Cullerne House Woodland (marked with dashed line) – this is listed in the National Forest Inventory and should be protected.
Cullerne Gardens Pond (Map ref (E)) – provides habitat for good numbers of common toads, palmate newts and common frogs and should be protected.
Universal Hall Woodland (marked with dashed line) – this is listed in the National Forest Inventory and should be protected.
Theme: Supporting employment, business and industry
Economic empowerment – through jobs and ‘on the job’ experiential site-based knowledge/skills/ training/education (especially apprentice jobs for young adults) via:
affordable, efficient, eco-building for community benefit
climate portable micro-building and stackable, dis-assemblable eco-building (anticipating future flood impacts) and of great interest to youth builders
local sourced low cost materials suitable for emergencies such as sand bag and other innovative building, replicating the Ecovillage’s innovation with Scotland’s first straw-bale house
supporting adults to gain leadership and facilitation skills for community-wide inclusive decision making that leads to balanced development and site planning that also addresses climate and nature crises
green energy, energy storage, energy efficiency and energy cost reduction
learning energy efficiency retrofitting skills on outdated buildings, a key need with the Scottish carbon/climate goals and a local job creator, that cannot be off-shored.
educational efforts will be guided by the holistic model for ecovillage education that considers the social, ecological, economic and world view / cultural / spiritual dimensions of sustainability and regeneration
expanding our current outreach work responding to local needs and honouring local wisdom.
Financial and economic inclusion – solving real world pressing problems through innovative demonstration of:
affordable energy running costs via highly energy efficient ecological buildings such as “Passivhaus” standard
reducing consumer energy prices via community owned energy storage facilities – Findhorn Ecovillage Community innovated with one of the earliest wind turbines up in Scotland (1989)
affordable housing via MHOS or other models
Community Supported Agriculture scheme – Cullerne House, owned by a group of community members, sits within Cullerne Gardens, which is currently owned by the Findhorn Foundation (FF). The gardens, used for food growing, are staffed by FF co-workers, volunteers from The Park and wider community, helping to facilitate the Findhorn Care Farm and others, thus providing support to the wider local area. The community owners of Cullerne House are in dialogue with the FF to explore cooperation in developing employment, educational and housing opportunities on the site. The proposal is to retro-fit/decarbonise the house, remodel it into a Youth Education Centre, with some additional accommodation for visitors, students and workers. In addition, the garden areas could be developed into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project to provide increased food production, promote health and wellbeing and provide employment and business opportunities and this could involve a strategic partnership with a farm in the local area. A further proposal is to use some of the land to expand the recent Just Transition Fund work with ‘Naturhaus’ buildings, providing sustainable, affordable accommodation.
Arts economy – the Ecovillage is home to a rich arts ‘ecosystem’ including organisations such as Universal Hall Promotions, Moray Art Centre, Phoenix Cafe Events and Dance North. These organisations regularly host performances, exhibitions and classes/workshops provided by local, national and international artists. These activities, both on site and as outreach across Moray, activities which enrich the cultural life of Moray, and have positive economic impact through attracting visitors. Additional ways will be sought to encourage more arts activities and educational opportunities with enhanced accessibility and more disabled parking.
Park Entrance – we would like the entrance to The Park Ecovillage to present a welcoming gateway with a new low-impact, eco-building which could house a visitor centre, shop, offices, and somewhere to eat. This could provide employment and help to generate income for the local economy.
Cullerne Farm – we would like to explore further potential ideas with the neighbouring farm owner, which could include holiday accommodation, car parking, again enhancing the local economy and providing employment opportunities.
Just Transition Fund – the community recently completed the 4 feasibility studies financed by the JTF to put the community forward to contribute to the fund’s tri-fold aims of reducing carbon emissions, increasing resilience and creating green jobs in Moray and Scotland more broadly. The studies point to the emergence of whole new industries that will significantly reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint and simultaneously create Green jobs. For example by reclaiming waste glass from Moray demolition sites to be used in greenhouse construction an entire circular economy in reclaimed construction materials can be created.. Overall it was estimated that implementing these 4 projects would create in the vicinity of 80 jobs in Moray and up to 12,000 green jobs further afield should our projects get funded and be replicated elsewhere in Scotland.
Local currency – we have the longest running community currency in Britain, the Eko, and we see room for this to expand more fully into Findhorn Village, Forres, Kinloss and surrounding areas. With the loss of local banks and need for a cohesive local money hub this could be part of addressing an important need and sense for recognising our local autonomy, resourcefulness and creativity.
Thriving community – The Park Ecovillage is where many local organisations have been founded and are based and we continue to innovate in this way, with the formation of a new Community Benefit Company ‘Ecovillage Findhorn’. At present the ecovillage directly employs around 125 people, some in hospitality, our shop, arts centre, cafe, events centre, care circle, education activities, food growing, accommodation, arts and cultural activities and maintenance. More are employed in our business hubs such as The Hive, that are home to organisations such as Trees for Life and Moray Car Share. In addition everyone in the community is connected to the wider economy in one way or another – many work in other parts of the county, run their own individual businesses or receive and spend money into the county. We would like to participate in a similar study to the one undertaken in 2002 for Moray Badenoch and Strathspey Enterprise, which estimated that the Ecovillage supported approximately 300 full-time equivalent jobs in the Findhorn / Forres area and provided about £3.8 million in household income within Moray. We also draw funds into Moray through a variety of regional and national project grants, thereby creating further local employment opportunities. The community is the birthplace of award-wining AES Solar.
Economic model – we recognise that our human economy is a subset of the economy of life and we will thrive when we synthesise these dynamic forces based on an economy that is both regenerative, circular and distributive by design. The basic tenets of Doughnut economics are: 1) a just and equitable society where everyone has the material resources to pursue their highest dreams, and 2) a sustainable biosphere that enables the engine of the economy to produce the necessary means for human prosperity but does not deplete vital natural resources. The model was scaled down to provide a “city portrait” that not only revealed areas where basic needs are not being met and planetary boundaries are overshot, but also how these issues were interlinked. Here at Findhorn we are constantly striving to achieve and model such an economy and to be inspired and inspire Moray to be a leading centre for this crucial model.
Theme: Sites for development
Appropriate planning and balanced space/site development – especially energy/carbon efficient eco-building and local energy, sensitively twinned with nature/biodiversity enhancement, space conservation and protection, and local (resilient) food production – all three above appropriately balanced via direct community led planning processes. The ‘how’ we build is as important as ‘what’ we build. We also wish to explore different ownership models such as MHOS (mutual home ownership society). The community has a historical and present commitment to co-creation with nature.
Entrance (Map ref (A)) – We wish the entrance to The Park Ecovillage to present a welcoming gateway with a new low-impact, flood-resilient eco-building which could house a visitor centre, shop, offices, and somewhere to eat. We would also like to make some changes to the road layout and parking which would make it more pedestrian-friendly, making for better accessibility for residents and visitors. We would like to revisit the earlier agreement with neighbouring Cullerne Farm for a larger car-parking area behind the Moray Arts Centre.
Holiday Park (Map ref (F)) – We would like to see innovative replacement of some buildings and caravans with more sustainable flood-resistant buildings as we experiment with mitigation and adaptation as responses to the threat of flood.
Central area (Map ref (G)) – re-designing the ‘runway’ (the unadopted, tarmac road which is one of the main vehicular access roads into the Park) and central area are key to the next stage of the Park’s development. We would like to enhance the appearance and accessibility of the ‘runway’ by installing measures to calm traffic and shift parking, whilst retaining some disabled parking to enable access to the Universal Hall, our prime venue for events which support the local economy. We would also like to enhance the appearance of the road by adding in some landscape features, helping to link the ‘village green’ area to the ‘community centre garden’ Then we would like to have further community consultation to consider how to proceed with the Community Centre and Sanctuary and whether the bungalows in the central area could be replaced by two storey affordable housing clusters, such as Silvertrees. Putting more housing in the central area would reduce pressure on Pineridge to provide land for extra housing that might be wanted or needed by the community so overall the community is looking for a well-balanced holistic development plan, considering as much of the site as a whole as we can, and the community buy out plan, placing ownership of the land into the hands of the residents, will allow this overall planning approach to get all needs taken into account.
Pineridge (Map ref (I)) – in this wooded area of the Park, the aim is to protect and enhance the existing character and natural landscape, which has a rich biodiversity, acts as a wildlife corridor and currently contains housing in caravans and older wooden bungalows, alongside art and craft studios (which are part of the social fabric of the Community, with people of all ages coming to work together, socialise and learn) and well-loved family areas. We need to allow for appropriate development, meeting our affordable housing and youth attraction needs, done in a highly ecologically informed and sensitive way. Any new housing agreed by the community should use low-density, using low-carbon, low-impact development methods and ideally these replacements would be clustered for sustainability, less footprint/more green space, and shared services. There is some recognition that low rise buildings take up more nature and land (reducing wildlife corridors) per head of occupancy compared to stacked buildings, and are also both more expensive and energy inefficient than terraces and this has to be balanced with acceptable building height. Any new build should be fossil fuel free in operation. There is a need for much further close consultation within the community about what the level of density should be for this area, as historically it has ranged considerably as the current landowner started to leave caravan sites vacant so there could be space for small,affordable terrace developments, without compromising the central nature area or current mobile home occupants. Even within the current density with 1:1 replacement there could be room for some further housing. Retaining and improving the existing craft studios and improving family areas and buildings, along with upgrading residential dwellings is an inspiring model of living in harmony with nature, providing both homes and craft workshops for human residents, and space for wildlife to thrive. Pineridge has two established access routes, servicing the established plots, replacing homes on a one for one basis should be suitably serviced by existing access.
Pineridge is an impressive area in the Park Ecovillage Findhorn that currently models a rare and inspiring demonstration site of how nature and humans (who are nature too) can live together with respect and in proportion in a unique way. It is precious to residents and also to visitors who say they have not come across this balance so readily elsewhere in spite of having visited other ecovillages. We hope that the Scottish Government and Moray Council will support maintaining the unique character of this site as part of their green and sustainability efforts,including recognising that it has been a site for innovation and change for decades (whisky barrel houses, nature sanctuary, bag end, strawbale building) and can continue to be an innovation site in the future, with sensitive, nature enhancing and aware development.
Cullerne (Map ref (H)) – we wish to explore using a small area of this land to build a Naturhaus eco-homes cluster or other small scale housing for younger people. This potential small-scale housing could easily be served by a cul-de-sac/home zone type layout, consistent with many other successful in-out home zones in the park.
Second access – we do not think a second general access to the Park is needed, and current suggestions to make a second entrance on land in a SEPA identified flood risk area do not seem to be the way forward. We wish to explore a potential second emergency access to the Park and whole peninsula with the MOD and Findhorn Village, which could be over higher ground belonging to the MOD.
Findhorn Village – Findhorn Village Conservation Company have identified a site to the west of Cullerne Gardens for the provision of low-cost residential accommodation with the aim of tackling this issue and attracting more young people and families to live in the area and we would like to continue discussions and co-operation with FVCC about the general lack of affordable accommodation and an ageing population affecting the whole peninsula.