LYME Regis residents and visitors had the opportunity to meet town councillors and members of the new One Planet Working Group during Regatta & Carnival Week.
Seven members of the recently-elected Lyme Regis Town Council were available to listen to people’s questions, comments and suggestions and to discuss matters of concern at a beach stall set up on Marine Parade on Thursday, August 8.
Compliments and suggestions for improvement in the town were offered on street lighting, the public gardens, recycling, placement of waste bins, overhanging vegetation and Japanese Knotweed.
Despite some negative comments seen on social media in recent weeks, the overwhelming majority of conversations were positive and supportive of the town council’s work.
The cleanliness of the beaches, seafront and gardens were particularly praised by residents and visitors alike.
Members of the public were also particularly interested in the council’s beach wheelchairs, which are free to hire, and the displays on Plastic Free Lyme’s initiatives to reduce plastic waste, including the Refill scheme, which was supported by Lyme Regis Regatta & Carnival Committee during the week with a free water refill station on Marine Parade.
Councillors who also volunteer for the Lyme Regis Foodbank manned a stall to publicise the need for donations of non-perishable food, goods for babies and essential toiletries.
Since last May, the foodbank has provided 471 ‘person/weeks’ of food – the equivalent of feeding a family of four for just over three years – to those people in need who are referred by one of 19 professionally-responsible groups, including GPs, Citizens Advice Bureau and Magna Housing.
The service is organised by LymeForward, run by volunteers and opens every Wednesday morning at The Hub in Church Street.
The new One Planet Working Group (OPWG) also had a stall. The group was set up after the town council unanimously agreed to declare a climate and environmental emergency, to co-ordinate community efforts towards achieving some of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to support the council to fulfil its pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Chairman Simon West explained: “Our mission was to raise awareness of the group and encourage new members to get involved. We aim to enable residents, visitors, businesses and other organisations to become carbon neutral by 2030. It’s an ambitious target but we’re using the framework of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals which offer a workable blueprint to achieve it.
“We also conducted a visitor survey on the seafront to find out how far people had travelled to get here, how long they were in the area for and the type and size of vehicle or transport used. This will enable us to estimate the carbon footprint of our visitors and it’ll be the first step towards finding out what needs to be done to offset the carbon created by their journeys.”
OPWG member Tracey West added: “I spoke to well over 100 people, predominantly tourists but also locals and day visitors from neighbouring towns and counties. It was noteworthy that many said they would use public transport more to explore the area, if we had better options to do so.
“Also, interestingly, many tourists said they were quite cross about holiday lets that gave no instructions on how they should/could recycle their rubbish. Some committed green visitors said they were going to take it home, others said they didn’t have the time to deal with it but were disappointed that this fundamental point hadn’t been dealt with.
“One of the aims of the One Planet Working Group is to identify environmental issues just like this. They’ll be able to present their findings to the town council, who have three councillors in the group. It is hoped that together, they’ll be able to find swift solutions to some of the problems visitors and residents face.”
Details of the One Planet Working Group are available on the website opwg.org.uk
Later that day, environmentalist and Green Party candidate Rob Smith was elected as the new town councillor, underlining the community’s desire for positive action on the climate and environmental crisis, and emphasising public support for the new council’s environmental initiatives.
Councillor Belinda Bawden, who organised the beach stalls, would like to thank the Regatta & Carnival Committee for offering the opportunity to meet members of the community and visitors enjoying their events, as well as fellow town councillors and OPWG supporters who contributed so enthusiastically to the success of the public engagement initiative.