Dorset Council seeks views on plans to tackle climate change

climateDORSET Council has launched a consultation, asking people to let them know what they think about its plans to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

The council recently published its draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy, which presents eight key areas for action to ensure that the council’s services and estate become carbon neutral (i.e. they save more carbon than they produce) by 2040, and across the whole Dorset Council area by 2050.

The council has also set out actions in an overall approach and how it intends to make it happen via leadership, funding, communications and progress reporting.

It now wants to gather feedback from residents, organisations, and partners in order to further develop its plans and initiatives to achieve a carbon neutral Dorset.

How to fill out the survey

The council strongly recommends reading the strategy and action plan, or at least the parts you are interested in, which will provide important information that will enable you to better respond to the questions in the survey.

You can then fill out the survey by visiting www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/climate-survey and follow the on-screen instructions.

The strategy is quite long and covers a lot of detail. You can save your survey responses online and return to them later if you want to take your time, or you can just comment on the sections that interest you.

Some questions must be answered before you can proceed, but most sections are optional.

Responses must be submitted by the end of Wednesday, December 9 2020 to be included in the consultation feedback – make sure you click the ‘Submit’ button when you are finished.

There is also an additional shorter survey available, which is aimed at younger people and optimised for use on a mobile phone. Paper copies are also available on request.

The results of the consultation will be collated and considered by Dorset Council members and officers as they finalise the strategy and action plan, which will be taken back to Cabinet early next year for approval and implementation.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “We’ve done the research, listened to the ideas, had the discussions, and come up with a broad, ambitious and deliverable plan for how we propose to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. We now need to know what our residents think of it.

“This consultation is vitally important, as the strategy will directly and indirectly affect virtually every service we deliver in the future. We want to hear from as many different people as possible, from students to retirees, working families to businesses, community groups, town and parish councils and everyone in-between.

“We recommend taking the time to read the whole strategy before filling out the survey, but if it’s simply too unwieldy and/or you don’t have time, just read up on the sections you are interested in and only respond to the questions that cover those.

“Dorset Council believes that this work is incredibly important. Just sitting by and letting others address this crisis is not an option. We need to work together to overcome this monumental challenge. What we all do – or don’t do – to address this climate and ecological emergency will impact our children, grandchildren and every other generation for centuries to come.”

No extension for lockdown

Extra time will not be given for the public consultation into Dorset’s climate change action plan – despite the current lockdown restrictions and the complexity of the proposals.

Some councillors and climate activists have asked for the six-week consultation to be extended to 12 weeks, but Cllr Bryan says that if the process goes on longer Dorset Council will not be able to include costs for the policies in the budget for the coming year.

Questions about the six-week consultation were asked by Hazelbury Bryan councillor Ken Huggins and Caz Dennett, from Climate Extinction, at this week’s Cabinet meeting.

Ms Dennett argued that advice from the Local Government Association recommended a 12-week consultation for major policy proposals.

Cllr Bryan said he was confident the task could be achieved in time and said that a series of online sessions were planned for town and parish councils alongside a publicity campaign to encourage the best possible public involvement.

He said that a shortened version of the proposals had also been produced to allow easy access to the documents via smartphone.

“I would encourage everyone to look at the proposals and respond,” he said.

One of the concerns about the policies is the projected costs, estimated at about £130million.

Cllr Bryan said that some of that money would come from grant aid with the county already having won £5.8million to continue the work of Low Carbon Dorset and £580,000 in Green Home grants. Further grants of £30m had also been applied for.

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