Planet Purbeck’s response to Dorset Council’s Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan - December 2020 

Planet Purbeck (PP) offers broad support for Dorset Council’s (DC’s) vital initiative in drafting a Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan (C&EE) for the Council and the County.

Nevertheless, Planet Purbeck intends to argue that the strategy and action plan needs to be more immediate and more urgent, setting a target for Dorset Council to be carbon neutral by 2030, rather than 2040 and for the County to be carbon negative by 2040. The dangers associated with the climate emergency are extreme and require a critical response. Central Government’s target of 2050 merely ‘kicks the can down the road’. Many of us will not be around in 2050 and by then many opportunities will be lost and the task immensely more difficult. 

As Dorset Council starkly acknowledges: 

“Time is short - we have only 8-10 years within which serious action is required to avert [the climate] crisis and avoid the worst impacts.”

If carbon neutrality and subsequently, carbon negativity, are to be achieved, all energy currently provided by fossil fuels for heating, transport and electricity in Dorset will need to be derived from low-carbon sources. This will require an enormous increase in renewable electricity generation in the County. PP argues that the quantity of renewable energy required by the DC area and the nearby Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch (BPC) area will be impossible to achieve without a major offshore wind development. PP strongly recommends DC should work with BPC to enable this option - an option not identified within the C&EE.

Dorset Council acknowledges that whilst they have the ability to address carbon emission from current council owned premises and estates and any future buildings constructed on DC land, DC have limited powers to halt emissions from private homes and businesses within Dorset. PP urges DC therefore to lobby Central Government, to produce revised National Planning Policy Framework guidelines and building regulations, which will mandate zero carbon output for all new development.  Without such revision, DC will be considerably constrained in achieving its carbon neutral targets for the County.

The C&EE rightly seeks to reduce the carbon impact from DC waste activities. Whilst DC is to be commended for its current domestic waste recycling policies and process, the C&EE makes no reference to the proposed Portland Waste Incinerator - a conspicuous elephant in the room. Much of the material to be potentially processed at the proposed plant are plastics, which even if a proportion are to be recycled, much will be burned and generate additional CO2, counter to the C&EE aspirations.

The C&EE requires action to be taken, led by the water industry, to significantly reduce demand for water, to reduce wastage and to manage water resources. PP welcomes this. However, this does not, in our view, go far enough to restore the quality of degraded waterways within Dorset. More proactive and radical solutions need to be sanctioned and enacted, including riverside rewilding to reduce run-off and agricultural pollution into rivers and where appropriate, consideration given to the introduction of beaver colonies. Beaver populations are proven to facilitate flood prevention and to improve water quality and enhance biodiversity. New development, especially near rivers and wetlands, should include mandatory requirements for permeable surfaces and reed bed creation to manage run-off and ameliorate risks from sewage contamination.  Again PP argues strongly for DC to lobby Central Government to produce a revised National Planning Policy Framework for sustainable standards in water use and disposal, especially associated with new build developments. 

The C&EE rightly acknowledges that clean air, water and healthy soils, (identified as ‘natural assets’), are vital for the physical well-being of the people of Dorset, whilst also recognising that increasing and unsustainable pressure is being placed on ecosystems and biodiversity. Dorset is seen as a relatively wildlife rich county. But the reality is that Dorset has for decades seen environmental degradation and serious loss of wildlife, and this continues. Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries on earth, and Dorset’s environment and natural capital have not escaped the impact of this. The AONB Management Plan states that parts of the landscape are in a poor state. Many habitats are degraded. There has been heavy loss of wildlife. Some of Dorset’s rivers and catchments are in a poor state, with implications for water quality and for our harbours and seas.

Although C&EE acknowledges the need to work hard to maintain and improve Dorset’s natural assets and the opportunity Dorset Council has, to take action on its own estate and to work closely with partners, PP argues that this intention is insufficient.  Interdependence of land use and natural assets requires the responsibility for action to fall on those who possess and control most land. Identifying strategies requiring restorative and proactive action by landowners to enhance and restore the biodiversity of their estates, is a crucially missing component within the C&EE

PP supports proposals to create a National Park within the DC area. The National Park (NP) would enable DC and the NP to jointly plan for sustainable development as well as excluding the DC area (whether inside or outside the NP) from national housing targets.

PP remains concerned that many Dorset residents do not know about this consultation.  PP encourages DC to inform all Dorset residents by sending a leaflet or letter to every household. The people of Dorset cannot respond to the C&EE and its laudable proposals to engage with the climate and ecological emergency, if they remain unaware of the initiative - and of course, not every resident has internet access. PP is only too aware that many people are concerned about the vital issues raised by the C&EE, but are busy and time poor. PP will produce and circulate widely, an easily accessed guide to completing the C&EE consultation. 

Planet Purbeck is grateful for Dorset Council’s timely Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan and welcomes the opportunity to work in critical partnership with Dorset Council, other organisations and agencies whose concern is the social and ecological wellbeing of our County at this acute time in human history.

“Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years… Climate Change”. 

Sir David Attenborough

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