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  • Posted February 24th, 2017

    Can you help Barbara Jones and Straw Works set up a National Skills Centre?

    Can you help Barbara Jones and Straw Works set up a National Skills Centre?

    Barbara Jones of Straw Works / School of Natural Building is the country’s top straw-bale builder. She is the author of Building with Straw Bales, and is the star of our straw-bale building online course.

    The School of Natural Building is now looking for funding to help set up a national training centre for natural building, renewable energy and agro-ecology.

    Are you a course provider? Do you think you would benefit from running your courses at the proposed centre? If so, please let Straw Works know as soon as possible, as they need to demonstrate to the funders the level of use that the centre would receive.

    The centre will be in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Here is some more information from Barbara:


    To set up a National Centre for skills learning in Natural Building techniques and in Agro-economy. Todmorden is well placed, with excellent public transport links, to be a National Centre, and a northern arm of other centres. A new Community Benefit (not-for-profit) Society is being set up by a partnership of the School of Natural Building and the Incredible Edible Farm, with other members drawn from the community of Todmorden, to be called Todmorden Learning Centre (TLC).

    We expect that 60% of the building will be used for education, 20% will continue to house the current tenants of CMBC, and 20% will be used for other community activities such as training sessions for the Todmorden Harriers, classes for the U3A, brass instrument teaching and practice, office space and meeting rooms.

    Your input

    We are very keen to attract courses, meetings, conferences and events, summer schools, business use etc from a wide range of other partners. We are currently writing our Business Plan and need to hear back from you about any such courses/events/bookings that you may wish to hold in the TLC. Attached is a form for you to fill in to give us an idea of what might be possible. Please bear in mind that none of this constitutes a commitment on either part, but we would encourage you to anticipate a successful venture, one that you would like to be fully involved with.

    Current situation

    Todmorden Community College (TCC) is owned by Calderdale Council (CMBC) and is currently used primarily by CMBC for a Surestart Children’s Centre, a Youth club, offices for social workers and a Customer First drop in (approx. 30% occupied). It used to be a thriving Vocational Training College, and then housed a very successful Art Foundation course until Calder College, Halifax withdrew from using it about 4 years ago. The TLC Board are currently negotiating with CMBC for an Asset Transfer of the building.


    Unfortunately, CMBC have given us very little time to present our case, as they are currently in talks with ALDI to knock down the College and sell the site to them. Therefore I would urge you to reply to me TODAY if at all possible.


    Barbara Jones

    Principal, School of Natural Building

    Expression of Interest

    It would also be helpful if you could write an expression of interest/support for us on your headed notepaper, give reasons why the existence of this venue would benefit you/your organisation, how a National Centre would be an advantage etc. If you are also able to say if you have worked with us as an organisation or as individuals before and how you rate us that would also be helpful. Here’s an example:

    Expression of Interest for the use of Todmorden Learning Centre, (TLC) the National Centre for skills training in Natural Building and Products, and Agro-ecology

    Name of Organisation/Business:

    Your Position in the Organisation/Business:

    Contact Details: mobile email

    Possible Ideas for below: one day course; one day a week course for a term/year; evening class; summer school; conference; event; business meeting; use of office space – one off or regular

    Title of course/event Duration in days/hours Number of participants Best time of year/day One off or continuous Expected rental fee



    Letter of Support

    And here’s a proposed letter of support for you to amend as you see fit (email to [email protected]):

    Your headed notepaper with address and contact details

    Ms Barbara Jones

    Straw Works Ltd


    OL14 8RJ


    Dear Barbara

    I am writing in support of your proposal to set up a National Centre for skills learning in Natural Building techniques and in Agro-ecology.

    State what your company/organisation does and why a National Centre would be beneficial and why you would use it.

    e.g. we work nationwide and run training courses all over the country. The venues we currently use are not of sufficient size and cannot be accessed easily by public transport.

    I would wholly encourage a national centre which would provide a FANTASTIC educational resource for applied learning. Our children are hungry for knowledge, and I only wish we could have a resource like this in every town!

    I would see a series of teacher and student training events, not only in practical skills, but also technical sessions which would focus on sustainable building techniques. Since our students also encourage their parents to practice sustainable living, I cannot think of a more appropriate location to offer adult education sessions.

    I do hope you are successful in your bid and look forward to supporting you in the future as you realise this hugely important ambition.

    Kind regards

    Your name

    Job title

    Expert Barbara Jones teaching on a straw-bale building course

    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    • 1Debbie Fisher February 25th, 2017

      Delighted to come across this opportunity to support you. I shall be putting a letter together and look forward to the progress.

    • 2Melanie Plevey February 26th, 2017

      Hi, I have written two letters I would like to pass onto Barbara, but can’t find an email address to send them to. Many thanks, Melanie [email protected]

    • 3Dave Darby February 26th, 2017

      [email protected]

    • 4mathias May 11th, 2017

      Hi Barbara,

      Good to hear you are going forward with this meaningful project.

      All the best in this venture!

      I hope to see you again in a near future,

      Mathias (ISBC 2016 NZ, the camera-piano guy).

    • 5Ina McNicol September 2nd, 2018

      I have just seen youon Dragons Den so wonder what is the name of your site to look at small houses for sale please advise

    • 6Sophie Paterson September 3rd, 2018

      Hi Ina, thanks for your query. You can find Barbara, Eileen and the Straw Works team over at http://strawworks.co.uk/.

    • 7Mandi April 8th, 2019

      Just saw your endeavours on Dragons Den last night and love it! Your energy and passion is strawful!! Would love to support you in some way or attend one of your courses – am amidst a proper lovely campaign to save a really old market in Devon called Hatherleigh from Developers who simply are not sustainable and this is just the stuff we would include in the community vision! Wow, what a gift to stumble across you lovelies! (Don`t watch alot of TV, but glad I did last night) and wish you well with all you are doing.

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