LYME Regis Town Council reaffirmed its commitment to ‘go green’ and become carbon neutral by 2030, after calls for it to take more immediate action to tackle climate change.
Councillors considered a complex 30-page report on environmental issues at its latest virtual meeting, and approved several policies which will help them meet their carbon neutral target.
The decision came after several environmental campaigners called for more urgent action from the council, which declared a climate and ecological emergency in 2019.
Speaking during the public forum of last week’s meeting, Turn Lyme Green member Polly Benfield said she acknowledged that the council had been dealing with issues surrounding COVID-19 in more recent months, but “climate change is still with us”.
She added that there was a lot Lyme Regis could do as a community to tackle the issue and said there was an “overwhelming need” for the council to take a lead on this.
Jo Smith Oliver, chairman of Turn Lyme Green, pointed out that it had been a year since the council had declared a climate emergency and she spoke in favour of recommendations in the report which would help reduce carbon emissions.
She added that “creative thinking leads to fast results” and she hoped the council would work together with Turn Lyme Green and other environmental groups to “adapt to new ways of living”.
“If we don’t we will get left behind, which is not a great advertisement for Lyme Regis,” she added.
Local horticulturalist and keen follower of council matters, Nigel Ball, said he was largely in favour of the policies suggested to tackle climate change, but he added that the council needed to be prudent and sensible in these challenging financial times.
A letter from environmental campaigner Tracey West was also sent to the council in advance of the meeting.
At 11 pages long, the full letter was not read out, but in it she wrote: “Apathy, inaction and tardy implementation of low hanging fruit is no longer acceptable. Climate action needs to be a high priority – it poses a danger to our lives, our homes and our future.
“People in the town are looking to you for inspiration, for suggestions and for assistance to effect sustainable living changes in their personal lives and their businesses too. They need guidance, information, education and financial support.
“Lyme Regis Town Council, if you think COVID-19 has delivered you a challenge or two to mitigate, you ain’t see nothing yet.”
‘We all have a part to play’
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, said that some people had indicated that there had been some inactivity on the council’s part in dealing with environmental issues and he felt this was unfair.
He said that everyone in the community had a part to play and that the town council would do everything it could, but some things were outside its remit and it could not tell residents what to do.
“We have control over our own areas and a persuasive element. We cannot do everything but we do understand the part we can play,” he added.
“I think we have been unfairly judged in one or two comments from people who want us to do it all when it’s just not within our gift.”
Councillor Belinda Bawden, who has been fronting the campaign for the council to take action against climate change, said she felt these comments had been misunderstood and no one was expecting the town council to do everything.
Councillors then started to consider the lengthy report, but many expressed confusion about some of the recommendations, in particular a suggestion that members undertake carbon literacy training.
This would be run as part of the Carbon Literacy Project with training undertaken by Councillor Bawden, who said she was fully qualified. It would help give councillors an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions on an individual, community and organisational basis.
The council’s operations manager Matt Adamson-Drage said that undertaking the training could only be seen as a good thing for the council, and described most of the other environmental recommendations as inexpensive “no-brainers”.
Commenting on the training, the mayor said: “If it helps up to understand other recommendations with more knowledge, that’s fine.”
Councillors agreed to the training and almost all other recommendations put forward, including:
- Setting interim carbon neutral targets of 10 per cent reduction per year leading up to 2030
- Draw up and launch the first net zero plan to achieve the ambition of carbon neutral net zero
- Annual corporate environment and sustainability reporting to commence in 2021
- Draw up relevant environmental legislation list and keep it updated
- Commence work to be accredited to at least BS8555 phase three and engage an environmental consultant/auditor
- Carry out an environmental aspect assessment and carbon footprint of the council’s activities and services
- Review the council’s Environmental Policy Include a header on every council agenda reminding members to consider the council’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 when making decisions
- Work with Dorset Council to help undertake carbon footprinting for Lyme Regis
- Identify and source environmental funding
- Review the climate action and environmental initiatives list from November 2019
- Move to green energy tariffs
- Implement a green contractor preferred scheme
- Implement green ESG investments and banking
Other proposals which were considered more expensive or complication included introducing electronic ways of working and paperless agendas for all councillors, introducing an electrical bike rental scheme and an electric/hybrid car club scheme.
It was agreed that these recommendations could be considered at a future date, possibly when the council was in a healthier financial position.
Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Bawden announced she had just received news of an exciting environmental project currently under discussion with the Woodland Trust and Lyme Garden Growers.
This would be a community-led project based on Woodland Trust land in central Lyme Regis, with full details to be announced soon.
Speaking after the meeting, Rikey Austin, who founded the Garden Growers group, said they were still waiting for a firm agreement from the Woodland Trust before making an announcement, but all interested parties from across the community would be consulted and involved.