27 September 2021
By Tom Collins
The weekend saw the public launch of an innovative and ambitious new Centre of Excellence for Climate Action and Sustainability in West Cork. CECAS is a first for the region, and brings together community, business, policy makers and educators under the stewardship of Green Skibbereen CLG a not for profit company who are driving the project.
The CECAS project is based in the heart of West Cork in the former Myross Wood House Retreat House close to Leap and Union Hall. The historic house dates back to the 1800s and sits in a scenic and coastal location in 35 acres of gardens and woodland.
The Centre has been up and running since the beginning of August and is already delivering and developing projects around woodland restoration, retrofit, renewable energy and sustainable practices, has a number of local community groups already using the many rooms for meetings, education and events and is renting out small workspaces to local micro enterprises, creatives and small businesses. This combined with provision of basic and affordable holiday accommodation for visitors is starting to generate activity and importantly generate much needed revenue.
Acting Chair of the Directors of Green Skibbereen Trish Lavelle who opened the launch spoke of the huge potential for the building. “The building is slowly but surely coming back to life after some years of decline in its use. Its a lovely but very old, inefficient building but in that respect it is perfect for us to test and demonstrate the very best retrofit techniques and materials because over 20,000 people in West Cork also inhabit old and inefficient homes and if we are to address fuel poverty we need to help them make informed decisions about adapting to a low carbon future.” She spoke of the importance of community engagement, paying tribute to the many volunteers who are already coming forward to assist with various projects, gardening, woodland restoration and more. “ West Cork has a wealth of talented people, resourceful people, practical people with so many great ideas. Without community, there is no CECAS and every single project we are working on will directly involve West Cork people, families, groups and businesses.”
Unveiling the new CECAS Supporter Scheme Trish explained that individuals, families and students can now sign up to the scheme via the CECAS website knowing that “for the price of a meal in a pub they can become directly involved in our vision of a zero carbon West Cork, confident that every cent is going into projects that will benefit our communities and help us all meet the climate change challenge”
Noel Casserly – Company Secretary for Green Skibbereen CLG spoke of the expected impact of CECAS citing an independent report produced by Exodea Consulting which forecasts the creation of 68 direct and indirect full time equivalent jobs with an average payroll of over €800,000 and the generation of €23.6m in direct and indirect economic value. “ CECAS aims to support the creation of a zero carbon economy in West Cork, with green skills, employment and businesses supported through the centre.”
Angela Brady of BMA Architects is just one of the increasing number of organisations working with CECAS and has designed the first phase of the development of an events hub in one wing of the house. She set out an exciting vision for the phased development of the building over the next five years and welcomed the launch of CECAS as “providing a vital community space for learning, sharing good practice, demonstrating and evaluating the best solutions to help us reach not just low carbon but zero carbon for West Cork”
Over 200 people attended the launch over the course of the day and were not deterred by the torrential rain which gradually cleared. The day included local musicians playing live in the courtyard, workshops on biodiversity and retrofit, guided tours of the house and gardens and a pop up community cafe run by the Union Hall Women’s Group.
Reflecting on the events of the day Trish Lavelle was extremely optimistic for CECAS – “It was such a positive day, full of energy, generosity and a real willingness to support us. Over the course of the day we have made several new contacts with individuals, businesses and groups who wish to be involved in developing projects at CECAS in partnership with us. These are very exciting times for CECAS and for West Cork. It really shows that despite the very real climate emergency, we are far from powerless as a community.”