"Brighton and Hove City Council is very impressed by what we’re doing,” says Paul Norman from Hanover Action for Sustainable Living (HASL). “They’ve given us a small grant for admin costs and are very complimentary about the level of involvement and the impact we’re having.”

It’s been two years since the formation of HASL but even in one of the most transient areas of the city, the environmental community group is making its mark. They currently have about 250 people on their mailing list and 30 active members who put in regular work. The original core has split into subgroups focusing on particular issues, such as the food group, or the film group which puts on environmentally-themed movie evenings to encourage membership and familiarity with HASL.

Paul is the coordinator of the 10:10 group, which spreads local awareness of the national 10:10 campaign, set up to encourage people to cut carbon emissions 10% at a time.

He is also leading a project to completely revamp the Hanover Community Centre on Southover Street. He says, “The integrity of the building is like all the houses in the area – no cavity walls, difficult to insulate. We wanted to develop a project that gets people involved and, from an educational point of view, helps show them the kind of things they can do with their own homes. With the Green Deal launching next year, people need to know what’s feasible for them.”

As part of the makeover, HASL has asked the University of Brighton to be involved, with architecture and design students considering the different options and developing proposals for the different measures that could be taken – not just with insulations but with heating and lighting as well.

Paul says, “We’re also hoping some of the students will get involved with volunteering activities and be inspired to be part of the community, especially given they get quite a bad press in Hanover.”

The community centre project is quite a departure from previous work carried out by the group, which has mainly been focused on awareness raising and education – particularly about energy matters – demystifying ideas around reducing carbon emissions and holding public meetings around broader themes of sustainability.

For the future, they are drafting ideas for a “Hanover Carbon Master Plan”, which will lay out the current carbon usage of Hanover and the immediate surrounding area, and set concrete targets for reduction.

Paul says, “We’re thinking about having residents as energy efficiency advisors – street contacts with training in the various options available, who would know where all the relevant facilities and contacts are. We want to build up a network around Hanover that would really make some structural differences to our local area.”

The organisation of HASL is already familiar to many, having taken inspiration from the popular Transition Town movement. However, it hasn’t been officially labelled a Transition initiative as organisers wanted to keep it local.

“We’re on a much more manageable scale than larger Transition groups and it’s not just about energy” says Paul. “It’s about lifestyle, about getting people to meet their neighbours and have interesting social events. It’s about a broader connectedness and affecting change.”