2020 brought challenges we could never have planned for

IN our last column of the year, it seems a good time to reflect on how significantly things have changed for the council in 2020.

COVID-19 has created challenges we could never have planned for, asking us to respond in an unprecedented manner and compelling us to find new ways of working.

During this global pandemic and at a time of national crisis, it has been the ultra-local response which has seen our community through these difficult times.

The council has worked flexibly and with many other partners to support the community and keep services running where possible, being mindful of our responsibility to balance the needs of residents with the needs of local businesses.

A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to engage with local organisations and support and encourage the swell of volunteers in our community who stepped up to help.

We made our workforce available to any other organisation which required support, including making deliveries for the food bank, providing administrative resources to Lyme Regis Community Support, training staff to carry out kerbside waste collections, and installing signs and hand sanitising stations for Dorset Council.

We continued to provide grant funding to some of the town’s biggest organisations to ensure their survival, including the Marine Theatre, The Hub and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, as well as smaller grants to groups like the 1st Lym Valley Scouts, Lyme Regis Majorettes and Turn Lyme Green.

When anti-social behaviour became an issue late at night on the seafront and in the gardens, we responded to a plea from Dorset Police and employed security guards to patrol these areas. It’s resulted in some really positive conversations about the level of police presence in Lyme in the future.

Major refurbishment of the Langmoor and Lister Gardens has continued this year and we know many people have found the beauty and peace of the gardens to be a real solace during troubled times.

Our relationships with external organisations have been strengthened during this crisis, creating a more co-ordinated and productive community support network which we believe will continue in the future.

Our work has also been a contribution and support to the wider local effort – our community has pulled together to respond to the crisis, with new support groups emerging, individuals going above and beyond to help friends and strangers, neighbours looking out for each other, and a sense of trust and belonging emerging.

The council’s normal services and facilities have been heavily disrupted, with each government announcement requiring a new approach and every decision made with the best intentions and with the safety of our community in mind.

Most of our services are now operational, albeit with safety measures in place, but the tier 2 restrictions mean we aren’t quite back to ‘normal’.

The council office remains closed and staff are working from home, which we expect to continue until the spring, the number of people who can attend weddings and funerals is restricted, and all our council meetings are taking place virtually.

While we are keen to return to face-to-face meetings, the national bodies which advise us are still strongly recommending local councils continue to meet remotely. We’re pleased to see more members of the public joining our meetings on ‘Zoom’.

As the council has declared a climate and environmental emergency, this approach will help us achieve our goals as there is reduced travel, less paper as we use digital means where possible, and reduced power consumption.

Training and information-sharing is more readily available, with a surge in online webinars and seminars, helping us to continually improve our skills and knowledge.

With these kinds of benefits beginning to emerge, the council will continuously improve its ways of working and engaging with the community.

We’re in the process of setting a budget, which places us in a better financial position than we could have imagined at the height of the pandemic, making plans to carry out some projects in 2021 and beyond.

As we come to the end of this difficult year, we move into 2021 with hope, bolstered by a renewed sense of community spirit.

Kitchen garden in Langmoor

Pictured from left, Tara Webb, Jo Smith, Paddy Howe and Rikey Austin of Lyme Garden Growers, and the council’s operations supervisor Pete Williams

A KITCHEN garden in the seafront gardens will hopefully be ripe for picking by the summer.

The council has handed over management of a flower bed in the Langmoor Gardens to Lyme Garden Growers to create a community garden.

Our operations supervisor Pete Williams put the idea to the group, who jumped at the opportunity to provide a shared space to grow and learn about fruit, vegetables and plants.

Pete said: “I knew the Garden Growers were looking for space so I came up with the idea of giving them a flower bed. It fits in with the council’s refurbishment of the gardens, as well as the initiatives we are pursuing as part of our recent climate and environmental emergency declaration.”

Our gardeners prepared the bed and the Garden Growers are now busy planning what they’d like to do with the space.

Lyme Garden Growers was formed last year by local couple Rikey Austin and Paddy Howe but it really took off during lockdown and now has around 600 online members.

Rikey said: “Lockdown was awful but it gave people time to stop and think and reconnect with the soil and nature.”

The group is thrilled to have this new space to develop and will be carrying out most of the preparation work in January, to hopefully start planting in the spring.

Rikey said: “We were looking for land to create shared community spaces, just to put the idea of growing veg in front of people who might not have thought about it. I want people to be able to walk past and feel it’s their garden, to get involved, do a bit of weeding and tidy things up.

“People will be able to come and take the produce and that’s part of the education – if someone needs something, take it. The worst thing that can happen is that produce goes over and doesn’t get used so it’s going to be there for everyone to share.”

One of the most excited of the Garden Growers is local resident Tara Webb, who had never gardened before lockdown but, according to Rikey, has been a real inspiration and has worked tirelessly for the community.

Tara said: “I will certainly help out wherever I can and hopefully lots of other people will get involved. There are already a few community herb gardens in Lyme Regis that work well and people have been respectful about what they take and what they leave.”

With the gardens looking so good after all the hard work our gardeners have put in, there’s no doubt the kitchen garden will enhance the area.

Rikey said: “There’s a perception that veg gardens are ugly and messy and although it’s not always going to be full of flowers and it won’t always look like a formal garden, if there are enough of us putting a little bit of time into this, it will stay beautiful.”

Share your thoughts on climate action plan

WE welcome the opportunity to have a say on Dorset Council’s plans to tackle the climate and ecological emergency and would encourage others to share their thoughts.

Dorset Council is gathering feedback from residents, organisations and partners to further develop its plans to achieve a carbon neutral Dorset. They have recently published their draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy, which presents eight areas for action, including food and drink, waste, and transport.

We believe the strategy is a great start and we are pleased Dorset Council has gone this far but we also think there needs to be more urgency to meet national and international agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We’d also like to see Dorset Council work more closely with town and parish councils and community groups, drawing on their expertise, commitment and knowledge to support the implementation of the strategy.

Dorset Council is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2040 but we’re urging them to aim for 2030, while the 2050 target for the whole county is nowhere near ambitious enough in our opinion.

These are the kinds of views we will be including in our response to the consultation.

We would urge everyone in the community to respond – Dorset Council want to hear from as many people as possible by the deadline on 20 January 2021, so please don’t miss the opportunity.

You can find the strategy and have your say at dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/climate-strategy

Tour the town with new interactive map

WE’RE looking ahead to next year with hopes that we will be able to invite visitors back to safely enjoy our town.

With that in mind, we’ve launched a free multimedia town map to help tourists make the most out of their visit to Lyme Regis.

A beautifully illustrated map and video trail guides people around the town, helping them to discover areas they never knew existed.

Tourists will often arrive in the town and not get any further than the beach and seafront. We wanted to show them how much more there is to Lyme Regis, help them explore our town’s rich history, and promote our local businesses – we feel we have achieved all these aims.

Copies of the map will be available from many local businesses and on the website www.discoverlymeregis.co.uk 

Census to be held in 2021

A CENSUS will be held in 2021 and we will be helping to spread the word of this important national survey.

The census, which will be held on Sunday, March 21, is a compulsory survey that gives the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in England and Wales.

The information collected from the census helps inform local authorities and government about demands for vital public services such as school places, hospital and GP services and social care provision.

We would encourage all residents to take part to help ensure our community is well-served.

From January, we will be providing more information about the survey and how we will be helping the process, so please keep an eye out for updates.

Christmas opening hours

THE council will close down for Christmas and New Year and provide essential cover during this period.

We will close at 12noon on Christmas Eve and re-open at 9am on Monday, January 4. Staff will be working throughout this period to provide essential services such as bin collections, parking and dog enforcement, and emergency repairs.

All that remains is to wish our residents, businesses and visitors a happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

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