I can't help thinking – where is our local MP here? He's paid lip service by issuing a few press releases, but why hasn't he spoken to the Living Rainforest and told them how to go about getting funding? He has a big enough office and large enough staff can't they help here? Perhaps he is far too worried about his precious DESO (just about the only thing he has spoken on in Parliament)… so very disappointing.
Wonderful revolutionary project could fail at last hurdle.
Must the Low Carbon project return €1.2 million to Brussels?
Plans to construct Europe’s ‘greenest glasshouse’ at the Living Rainforest, an eco-centre which educates the young and older in Berkshire are on the verge of collapse. £950,000 will be claimed back by Brussels if the final funding is not secured urgently.
The Living Rainforest is a sustainability charity which welcomes and educates in the most experiential and exciting way children from schools all over the country. Visiting adults also enthuse about it.
LRF has raised over £1.8 million of EC funding to showcase what the low-carbon commercial glasshouse of the future could look like.
What is a low-carbon commercial glasshouse?
Instead of relying on greenhouse-gas-polluting fossil fuels for heat, the design uses the glasshouse itself to collect excess heat from the sun, and stores this energy underground for use in winter.
This revolutionary technology can be used to heat buildings and grow ‘protected crops’ like tomatoes and lettuce year-round in a climate-neutral way.
“This is a golden opportunity for the UK to play a leading role on low carbon technologies which stand to benefit both the planet and the UK Horticultural industry” says local MEP Caroline Lucas.
”It would be a tragedy to simply let this EU money slip through our hands after so much funding has already been secured – the project would in effect be killed.”
LRF sponsors have raised significant funding but the charity needs to raise a further €1 million (£830,000). The Government needs to support the final stages of the project however, despite warm words from Phil Woolas the junior minister at Defra, further financial commitment to the project remains out in the cold.
Karl Hansen, director at The Living Rainforest said
“Like many science centres, we support the work of the Government with very little funding from the public purse. We educate schoolchildren about the world’s threatened ecosystems, and about ways to reduce our ecological footprint at home and abroad. We do so without relying on government handouts.”
Many hundreds of school children of all ages visit the LRF weekly and experience the delights of blue morph butterflies, Geldi monkeys’ 40 different calls, the sculptural water dragon often to be seen perched up high over the pond, and countless beautiful animals and plants, in humid high temperatures which reflect the rainforest’s. Tour guides thread their way through the forest, enabling the children and teenagers to identify cocoa plants and think about the healthy properties of dark chocolate, to look out over the luxuriant banana plants and highest leaves. Young children talk excitedly and sadly of the death of Steve Coogan when they spot the piranhas, and love the fluttering blue morph giant butterflies and spying the poisonous bejeweled little frogs.
Hanson adds, “Major innovation projects like this cannot succeed without reasonable backing from Government and other sources.
The horticulture industry is keenly interested in the lessons to be learnt from the project. Ironically it is feeling the pinch of rising energy prices and is unable to fund this work”.
He continues “despite the obvious advantages and solid financial support from Brussels, the project is now at risk and so we need clear, realistic support from the Government to ensure that this wonderful demonstration project goes ahead”.
With very few weeks left to secure the support required, the Living Rainforest is faced with the alternative of returning €1,200,000 to Brussels. This lack of funding at the eleventh hour, of a project which leads the way forward seems genuinely to be madness.