Cumnock is the second largest settlement in East Ayrshire, supporting a number of surrounding communities stretching from Dalmellington in the south to Muirkirk in the east.
In demographic terms, Cumnock is typical of other post-industrial towns across Scotland, with high levels of fuel poverty and deprivation.
Cumnock and the surrounding area have a long history of mineral extraction, with deep mining and, most recently, opencast coal mining. In 2013, after decades of decline in the mining industry as a whole, two out of three opencast coal operators went into liquidation.
This left 300 local people without their livelihoods and around 2,000 hectares of land unrestored. Since then, the affected communities have found it difficult to recover and have failed to attract new industry to the area.
With the national agenda switching to non-fossil fuels, interest in the Cumnock area has turned to renewable energy. As a result windfarms have become a notable part of the landscape.
Over the last five years, the number of windfarms in the area has grown significantly meaning that the area is generating more energy than is needed locally. Windfarm companies are being curtailed and with no strategic direction, community benefits monies are not addressing the levels of deprivation in the Cumnock area.
A key driver for CoRE is to make sure that the community are experiencing the associated benefits that the renewable energy industry can bring to the economy of the area - for example, lower energy bills, jobs and meaningful investment in communities.
To overcome some of Cumnock’s economic challenges, East Ayrshire Council, local organisations and the community have been working collaboratively to bring about a transformation. Of particular note is the development of the new Barony Campus, which incorporates two primary and two secondary schools, an additional support needs unit, a national Rugby School of Excellence, early years education and extensive community facilities for the arts and sport.
Sitting next door to the CoRE Centre of Excellence site, and built to Passivhaus standards, the campus is an inclusive learning environment with state-of-the-art facilities for children and young people across the Cumnock area.
On the other side of the CoRE site, The Prince's Foundation have also begun the construction of their Knockroon eco-friendly housing development which demonstrates high quality design and sustainability principles.
Building on the work undertaken so far, CoRE represents the next step in Cumnock’s transformation. A huge driver for this project is the community benefit it can bring to the area.
Critically, it will assist communities to generate, use and store their own low carbon energy and help to address fuel poverty through reduced energy bills. The project will improve the active travel network, helping to reconnect communities with each other and give communities access to a low carbon transport system. By attracting new, innovative businesses to the area, new jobs will be created - in turn reducing unemployment.
With its community at the heart of CoRE, Cumnock can be Scotland’s first truly sustainable town. An equitable place with a fair and just energy system that boosts the opportunities, capability, economy, health and wellbeing of its communities.