DORSET is a national leader in council climate change and ecological policies – according to the senior councillor heading up the response.

“We are market leaders on what we have done and what we plan to do…we are held in very high regard, nationally,” said Cllr Ray Bryan at this week’s cabinet meeting.

His comments follow a weekend protest in Dorchester during which climate campaigners accused the authority of taking two years to achieve next to nothing.

Although Cllr Bryan admits it will take £130m just to deal with Dorset Council’s carbon by 2040 he says the authority has made a good start. The amount generated by council activities equates to just 1 per cent of the problem in the county.

Councillors were told of how Dorset Council is to spend a £19 million government grant to reduce its carbon footprint – initially with 35 projects, which could be expanded to 50, mainly involving council buildings, schools and other assets.

Cllr Bryan says the grant equates to more than £50 per head for Dorset’s population, well ahead of the amounts given to other councils on a per capita basis. He said in Greater Manchester where the Government grant was highest overall it worked out at £28 per head and in Kent, £14.

“It’s a fantastic result for Dorset Council who, let me add, is only two years old, and we’ve had a pandemic in the middle. It’s a fantastic success story,” he said.

He again called on Dorset residents to back the policies and do what they can, individually -  warning that without the public taking action climate targets would not be met.

Cabinet members were told that Dorset Council had rejected the route of some other councils, to buy carbon credits, and was working to make real-life reductions with a planned 40 per cent dip in the council’s carbon use by 2025; 71 per cent by 2030, 95% by 2035, and becoming carbon neutral in 2040 – ten years ahead of the Government target.

Cllr Bryan said the climate and ecological plan was ‘achievable and realistic’ although it was now two months behind schedule because of the pandemic and extending the consultation period on the council’s proposals. It is expected to be approved at full council by the end of July.

“We said we would place this at the centre of what we do. When it is adopted, it will change a lot of the ways in which we work,” he said.

Weymouth councillor Brian Heatley said although he welcomed the proposals on fossil fuels the weakness of the plan was not enough emphasis on other greenhouse gases and ecology. He said he would like to see faster progress, although conceded most of those consulted were happy with the targets. 

Cllr Bryan said that design work was now underway on decarbonisation work for 35 council sites including County Hall, education, and leisure centre, with another 15 sites likely to be included later.

The work was based mainly around heating systems and would include a move towards ‘greener’ methods including air and ground source systems, improving building efficiency through insulation and generating local energy where that was possible.

All will be evaluated as they progress and the council will have to spend the money by January 2022.

The portfolio holder for climate and ecological change, who also holds the highways brief,  said the council has already started to replace tools and other equipment to run off batteries and was working on a replacement programme for some its vehicle fleet, together with installing electric vehicle charge points and working on low carbon road repair methods with partners, Hanson.