Regarding any future development of Pineridge July 2023
We would not recommend any immediate new development in Pine Ridge, but would base plans for future development on regular community-led participatory needs assessments cover the next few years. We are aware we need to make effort to engage with families and youth appropriately as their voice is often missed. Needs assessments could include bioregional mapping of nature, sacred spaces, species and environs etc. evaluating and replacing old caravans and bungalows with healthy, eco friendly housing, as well as evaluating community demands for types of new housing, workshop space, communal gardens. Included in this would be ongoing assessments of the needs of the natural environment over time, including animal corridors and woodlands.
While we accept that there is a need for more affordable housing in the future particularly to support a younger demographic, we do not necessarily support the narrative that ‘growth’ or ‘moving forward’ necessarily means more than replacement of buildings at this point. In fact, the Park Ecovillage Findhorn as a whole has seen exponential housing development in the last 10 years without the same development of physical infrastructure or social infrastructure to meet new needs. 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. The danger with growth meaning ‘more building’ narrative is that we may, if we are not careful, destroy the hand that feeds us.If we don’t have nature on our side we actually won’t have a future. We also want to stress that this area is an established ecosystem already where it’s non human citizens have rights and needs. And we want make sure these are not ignored or overridden in any speedy push for development.
The Nature group is in alignment with:
- Moray councils Declaration of a Nature Emergency and the need to actively engage as a community in
expanding habitat and supporting different species to thrive at a time of great species loss.
- 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’
- Our historical and present community commitment to co-creation with nature
- Our desire to create a lived daily experience for all our residents which is nature connected, collaborative and regenerative for ALL species in the next generations going forward.
- Our aspirations as a community to reach Carbon Neutrality by 2030
Pineridge is an impressive area in the Park 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’s made up, mostly, of low rise dwellings that are nestled into the landscape which enables such a balance. It is precious to many residents and also to visitors too who say, they have not come across this balance so readily elsewhere in spite of having visited other eco villages. 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.
Pineridge is also a place of spiritual and emotional importance for many with the quiet garden, the renowned and unique Sanctuary dedicated to nature and the earth lodge. It has been described as the ‘Green jewel’ in Findhorn’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. Such experiences can offer psychological comfort and healing in our currently challenging times.
Our concern about development of this area is that any substantial increase in density of houses and subsequent footfall on the land around, could throw out this delicate balance with nature irreversibly. This site is home to the red squirrel and hedgehog both in severe national decline. We also need to remember that nature does not have boundaries and Pine Ridge is part of a much bigger green corridor for many species who move through it. This stretches out through Diamond Wood as far as the Bay to the West and immediately into Hinterland in the North and to the rest of the Park Ecovillage to the South.
Based on our observations over time, the semi-wild areas also offer important roosting, nesting and feeding sites, creating habitat for a wide variety of woodland birds. Examples observed include thrush, goldfinch, siskin, bullfinch, lesser-spotted woodpecker, tawny and long-eared owls, tree creeper, gold crest, yellowhammer, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, wren, blackbird, wood pigeon, collared dove, green finch, black cap, willow warbler, chiffchaff and robin. This is not an exhaustive list.
From an ecological point of view Pineridge’s main characteristic is that it is an edge habitat and therefore an important transitional space offering a gradual movement from the more populated human settlement to the west and south of the park ecovillage through to the hinterland woods and extending to Findhorn Bay. Edge spaces are alive and vital both for humans and all forms of wild life as they tend to be species rich and have a lot of movement and flow through them which invites interaction. Pineridge has mature trees, both indigenous and non native, which play a significant role in sequestering carbon. We agree where possible indigenous regeneration is encouraged over time but would be very concerned if swathes of non-indigenous trees were taken out for development purposes. Careful attention is needed to avoid human dominance and maintain density and proportion in this area going forward both in the size of any new buildings and the ratio of build to non-build on individual plots.
Based on our close observations of the space and its specific character described above, any new building in Pineridge needs to be conditional to the following requirements:
1) Bioregional Mapping (or similar participatory process) of Pineridge area: This is ‘a community and participatory process to create maps that combine ecological and physical information with social and cultural information within a given place, as defined by those living there or the communities most impacted. It is both a tradition that dates back thousands of years, inspired by countless forms of Indigenous Mapping, and also that has emerged as a direct and modern response to the erasure of local cultures in the face of our current ecological, economic and social crises’. Brandon Letsinger
2) A detailed species survey of all wildlife must be carried out. We need to know in detail how different species inhabit this area. Especially the endangered and protected red squirrel population and hedgehogs. But also bats, badger, fox, deer and different bird species: tawny and long-eared owl.
3) Include Green nature corridors on the North, South, East and West side of Pineridge. (Specific areas marked on drawing enclosed). Detailed information attached is based on our current observations of one species and marks squirrel routes mapped by people who live there.
4) Trees- Any removal will need to meet not only PPG approval but be in line with Moray Council’s Tree & Woodland Removal / Compensatory planning Policy EP7 (Moray Local Development Plan 2020). We also wish this to be considered in terms of how such action sits ethically and spiritually within our communities commitment to carbon reduction going forward and co creation with nature. (We believe current community decisions in these matters are sometimes lacking the deeper perspective of the rights of nature as opposed to our human need. We would like to have a specific green representative in more community decision making bodies to advocate for these rights going forward)
5) Buildings – We recommend to only upgrade/develop the land where there are currently buildings/caravans and stay within the same footprint and height. This is in order to maintain the proportion and ratio that will support ecosystem balance in this particular location and not lead to human dominance and species loss. We recommend research on using cutting edge natural materials and creative and beautiful designs. Where possible upgrade to eco mobiles to minimise disturbance of the earth. (no concrete or impermeable surfaces).
6) Remove the building plot on the corner opposite the barrel cluster garages (as marked on map ).This site has deciduous trees and has been noted as an important thicket habitat for nesting birds and part of an important green corridor.
7) No removal of trees or current woodland space for parking. Residents would be encouraged to participate in Moray Carshare as part of their custodianship and protection of the green nature of this area. Any increase in traffic use around the Pineridge route would pose an unacceptable increased risk to wildlife. We highly recommend supporting the improvement of more regular and sustainable transport services in Moray with links from this into the community enabling a move towards zero car use in the future.
Other potential sites for housing in the Park Ecovillage
We advocate this less anthropocentric approach for all development in the Park Ecovillage with an ethos that favours land custodianship. This could be an inspiring model for communities in Moray and beyond. We need to be aware that we could end up just passing on the problem of damaging other ecosystems that have grown up over time in the Park when looking at other sites for housing so these must be carefully considered from the perspective of both flora and fauna and mammals.
Regarding space for housing other than Pineridge, the Central Area west of the runway has a fully developed plan created by the eco-architect Tom Raymont for the Findhorn Foundation in 2019. Tom was in a unique situation to develop this plan, as he grew up in the Findhorn Community, and has an intimate relationship to the land here, as well as his roots in community life. His plan skilfully displays an attunement to the human community as well as a reverence for the nature beings in this location, including the Original Garden.
This plan includes “renewal” of existing structures which are old bungalows or office space. It involves the area east of the Original Garden (bungalows) as well as west of the garden (location of main office). The map used is basically the footprint of existing or original buildings. It includes mostly guest houses and office space for the Findhorn Foundation, but this could possibly be re-drawn for community housing. The specifics can be found on YouTube “How The Findhorn Foundation is Co-Creating new Buildings” 3 December, 2019.
The Findhorn Foundation has committed time, finances, and energy to this renewal plan, which presents a vision of reverence for both human and nature based needs. Tom Raymont’s plan can be considered a valuable resource for renewal of the Central area, as it honours the vision of the founders of this community.
Call For Ideas – Pineridge
These suggestions are rooted in a desire to build better relationships, to create a culture in our community and beyond that is more nature connected, inclusive and collaborative. One which expands biodiversity and habitat for wildlife and recognises the need for resilience in climate change.
‘Living Wild Edge’ Pineridge as a pioneering international demonstration site for how humans can adapt to living deeply and simply in an edge, semi-wild settlement – One of the challenges facing us as humans is how to live lightly with minimum impact on nature going forward.This is something the next generation are wanting us to plan for. They want to see models that inspire new possibilities of holistic living which integrate housing and green economy and a daily life that enables deeper nature connection and custodianship of the land.
With a core intention to support biodiversity and prevent any loss of species, the keynote here is to start any building development from the perspective of the habitat and its wild inhabitants first. Human needs are shaped around this. This site is perfect for this and could be further evolved to become an inspirational model for how to live in edge sensitive habitats around Moray and elsewhere. It would attract a younger demographic interested in adaption and resiliency for climate change and would offer a regenerative vision of how to live lightly, and in daily connection with land whilst supporting wildlife to thrive going forward.
Nature based play in children’s play area PR – expanding edible landscape around fruit trees to create small edible woodland garden for understory, mazes and dens and wild play and new indoor building.
Create a medicinal botanical herb garden in the existing flower garden – could be a small community led business which creates social benefit with a herbalist and linking in to education.
Nature Sanctuary – supporting and encouraging spiritual connection to nature through meditation and song remembering this is an important resonant space /sound chamber in our community. Mindfulness and nature opportunities.
Wildlife focused garden with pond possibly in part of central area to make this area even more species rich, attracting pollinators / expanding the amphibian habitat etc. going forward. Could link up with existing edible garden and Hinterland activities and also continue to offer a meditative quiet space.
Nature walks & well-being -acknowledging the deep benefit to people of simply walking around and through the Pine Ridge area. Keep paths simple, made of natural materials. Maintain a space that is open and flowing for humans and wildlife. Slowly regenerate with indigenous species when trees die naturally.
Active community-led consultation on how any replacement buildings in Pineridge can preserve and support biodiversity e.g. Bug and bird nesting habitats.
Park Ecovillage Findhorn wide ideas to develop a nature based culture going forward.
Bearing witness to and responding to collective ‘Ecogrief’ – as we witness species loss and the disappearance or degradation of landscapes, climate change catastrophes we need to address this in the context of our own community and local area through park wide or neighbourhood events. (We have skilled people already working with this in our community.)
Bioregional mapping and / or other participatory community-led methodologies could be piloted at Pineridge area to fully engage community to share their knowledge and learn about different aspects of the place. It could include seasonal calendars, pictorial maps of – sacred places, where animals live, where different plants grow, where edibles grow etc. Buildings, services, water pipes, electricity etc. can also be mapped. Each map is a different layer showing different aspects of the community. This could be a combination of hand drawn pictorial and digital maps. This is in alignment with principles of participatory development that involves the local population to create and implement programs / initiatives to improve their lives. This is built on the belief that local people can be trusted to shape their own future and uses local decision making and capacities to steer and define the nature of intervention/development. The community together can decide what to map. Local communities know more about their communities than outside consultants. I do think the architects attempted this approach with some of the questions they asked but to ensure community ownership the process and the analysis needs to be community-led. The analysis could lead into the planning process.
Nature Connection activities regularly to support health and well-being across the Park and in local area e.g., sit spot, bringing elders and young people together through nature mentoring activities. When we are connected we want to care for something idea. Drawing on elders wisdom and contribution in a way that supports them and the next generation.
Community open garden events at different times of year -small garden open days welcoming residents from the local area to visit and be inspired by meeting a variety of gardeners in their gardens. For example edible gardens, woodland, wildlife, permaculture, and biodynamic approaches.
Seed swap and education events for Park and local area – drawing on Park Ecovillage based expertise educating people in environmental importance of saving and using locally grown organic seed as more resilient in climate change. Also focus on pollinators for bees, local butterfly species.
Nature blitz days – supporting each other to create more wildlife habitat within the human settlement. Group helps an individual transform and energise their area/ garden/ balcony for wildlife as a gift. Sharing of skills and food.
Squirrel day – to raise awareness in the Ecovillage and beyond about our resident endangered and protected species. Children’s events, theatre. What do squirrels need to live? How can we support them? Partnership with Hinterland on this.
Building design and neighbourhood layout that maximises the edges – For new builds, arrange buildings in curvilinear patterns or circles to encourage relationship with the land and with neighbours (permaculture). Barrel House cluster exemplifies a successful living example of a neighbourhood design that balances human connection with the environment and allows wildlife to move through the space.
Neighbourhood ‘Love Nature’ groups in each part of our settlement which encourage care custodianship and expansion of species with focus on particular character of that neighbourhood( e.g., swifts a possibility in the Whins due to height of houses) Window box / container gardens for balconies. Promoting gardening for wildlife ie ponds. This could build into climate change and resilience strategy as part of recognition that connected neighbourhoods are more resilient. ( see‘Cool blocks’ initiative)
Conscious Design All design efforts consciously move towards carbon neutral 2030, zero waste, supporting Moray carshare and reducing rather than increasing roads and tarmac areas in the Park. And collaboration with Moray Council and local stakeholders on environmentally and economically sustainable public transport.
‘From Garden to plate’ events in Sunshine room.