LYME Regis Town Council has unanimously agreed to declare a climate emergency and commit itself to tackling environmental issues.
Following a call from Lyme Regis resident and keen environmentalist Simon West, new councillor Belinda Bawden put forward the proposal to declare a climate and environmental emergency and the issue was discussed at this week’s Strategy & Finance Committee meeting.
Several residents spoke passionately in favour of the proposal during the public forum, including Mr West, who explained that he was in the process of setting up the Lyme Regis One Planet working group, bringing together local people and organisations to create a co-ordinated approach to tackle climate change, based on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
He commented: “I cannot solve climate change, Lyme Regis cannot solve climate change, it’s going to take everybody and by you voting to declare a climate emergency you will be sending a clear signal that you are part of the solution.
“I realise it may be difficult to see exactly what the council can do and there may be things that are way beyond the remit of the council. However, I am prepared to put my efforts into this have have started to put together a One Planet working group, which will bring together all of the existing groups within Lyme Regis who are working to help solve some of the issues of climate change, and make sure the people of Lyme Regis are involved in this; not just looking to the council to solve everything but to be a part of it.”
Mr West’s wife, Tracey West, who is CEO of reforestation charity The Word Forest Organisation, added: “There are so many stories from around the world, not just from this country, of new councils declaring a climate emergency. We can lead the way for coastal communities – we need the sea in the bay more than anybody. We could lead the way as a tiny town with a very big attitude.”
Rob Smith, who recently stood for Dorset Council as a Green Party candidate, said: “Lyme Regis can feel a small and insignificant town but we have a reputation around the world; we’re known as the birthplace of palaeontology and other sciences and because of our visitors we are known globally.
“The UK sparked the industrial revolution and it’s our duty to help repair some of this damage and lead the world in a de-carbonised economy. Lyme Regis can play an important part; we are a small community but people do look at us for leadership and we do have a reputation.
“As a coastal town we are also particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, and if you read some of the predictions if we don’t achieve the reduced carbon levels proposed, we may see catastrophic sea level rises which would seriously affect the town. Therefore I would like the town council to do everything they can in being a leader, tackling climate change and CO2 emissions.”
‘Forefront of environmental issues’
Former town councillor Rikey Austin added: “I cannot imagine for a moment that this council won’t support the motion for declaring a climate emergency with so many people in the community talking about it and councils across the country taking this action… but I hope that this council doesn’t just pay lip service to this idea and actually gets behind the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and really takes action for the best of this community and your residents.”
Councillor Bawden said Lyme Regis was at the “forefront” of environmental issues, having been the first town in Dorset and 24th in the UK to achieve plastic-free status. She said that businesses were recognising the advantages of “going green” and many local organisations, including Lyme Regis Development Trust, LymeForward and the Lyme Regis Society, were keen to work with the new One Planet group to create a co-ordinated community effort.
Councillor Bawden encouraged fellow members to support the proposal and sign up to the ‘Be The Change’ initiative in partnership with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and wellbeing; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible production and consumption; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace justice and strong institutions; partnerships for the goals.
She said the council would be the first town council in the South West to sign up to this initiative, and possibly the first in the south of England, with the exception of London.
Deputy mayor Jeff Scowen also gave his backing to the proposal, and said that not supporting it would “set us back when we’re in the vanguard of green issues”.
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, spoke in favour of several of the proposed initiatives the council could take forward to help tackle climate change, saying that several of them tied in with existing projects.
The proposed initiatives included:
- Migration to an electric fleet of vehicles
- Solar panels on the roof of the council-owned cadet hut
- Installation of water points on the seafront
- Free use of the town bus for Gateway Card holders
- A review of water consumption
- The purchase of green utilities
- The ethical investment of reserves and surpluses
- The introduction of car recharging points
- Green tourism initiatives, such as a parking levy to be invested in growing more trees in the tropics
- A move towards an electronic, paper-free office
- Sustainable and eco-friendly cemetery and gardens
- A energy efficient and eco-friendly office refurbishment
Councillor Stan Williams also suggested that conditions could be placed on the council’s seafront concessions, preventing them from using single-use plastic products.
Town clerk John Wright commented: “Let’s not just make a statement, let’s start by having a list of things we can practically do to get the ball rolling.”
He said that several of the initiatives would not take a long time to get going, were relatively cheap and simple, while others would have to be programmed for future years.
Councillor Scowen commented: “What I really like about this is the community involvement. It involves the council with the community and we need to do more things like that. This is tailor made for getting everybody involved.”
It was unanimously agreed to declare a climate and environmental emergency, with Councillors Belinda Bawden, Kelsey Ellis and Leon Howe chosen to join the One Planet working group.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr West commented: “I am delighted that LRTC voted unanimously to declare a climate and environmental emergency, and that three councillors have asked to join the One Planet Working Group.
“I am certain that Lyme Regis can not only play its part in combatting climate change and biodiversity loss, but can lead the way amongst coastal communities in meeting early targets to become fully carbon neutral.”
Anyone interested in joining the One Planet group or looking for more details can email Mr West on firstname.lastname@example.org