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Meeting of Environment Theme Group - 24th Feb 2010

Meeting of
Dorset Strategic Partnership
Environment Theme Group
DWT offices, Brooklands Farm, Forston, 24 February 2010
A long and well-attended meeting.  The following are points/issues arising of potential interest to third sector Sustainability & Environment members:
1.  Dorset’s response to climate change.  As follow-up to Kate Hall’s report to the previous ETG meeting, it was noted that an energetic new officer, Mark Fortune, has joined DCC to lead ‘Adaptation to climate change’ (including risk assessment of vulnerabilities).
2.  Environment Theme Group Action Plan.  As at all ETG meetings, an updated version of this plan (now more than eight A2 spreadsheet pages) was reviewed, discussed and details added or amended.  Under Objective 1, ‘Recognition and response to the challenges of global climate change’, two issues were identified (but not discussed):
  - Portland Green Energy Centre, which aims to produce power from palm oil (a controversial ‘biofuel’). [Paul McIntosh at has more information on this.]
  -  Proposed AMACO offshore windfarm (14 miles off Durlston Head) is raising concerns about (among other things) it seascape impact.  [Dee Stephens at Natural England has details.]  There will be a discussion at a meeting of Dorset Coast Forum on 18 May.
3.  Comprehensive Area Assessment (Simon Farnsworth, Audit Commission).  The Audit Commission vets the implementation, by LSP (Local Strategic Partnerships), of their local Community Strategy.  Thus, the results for year 1 (2009) for Dorset (DSP) are now available:
   i. Dorset Area Assessment, a report drafted to be easily readable by the general public.  In this, there are six paragraphs on ‘Safeguarding Dorset’s environment now and for the future’.  As a sample, para 4 reads’ “More still needs to be done to safeguard the environment in Dorset.  Dorset’s forecast rate of growth in built up areas is among the highest in the South West.  There is now more traffic on the roads, and light pollution and beach litter are increasing.  A government review of the quality of Dorset’s countryside showed a lot of the area was ‘neglected’.  This is partly being addressed through, for example, work to restore grasslands and plant new hedgerows.”  [We were unable to clarify what ‘neglected’ means in this context!  It depends so much on your viewpoint.]
  ii. Red and green flags are awarded to specific objectives within any LSP Community Strategy where achievement is seen to be particularly weak or strong, respectively.   For Dorset, there were no flags of either colour for environment issues, but housing got a red flag.  [Results for all LSP can be viewed ]
This audit process is planned to run for a second year (to the end of 2010).
4.  Review of Community Strategy (Sam Fox-Adams, DSP).  A new Community Strategy document is needed, in part as the basis for negotiating the next set of LAAs (Local Area Agreements).  The aim is for a fairly simple ‘delivery’ document, supported by factual appendices.  So far, a draft ‘evidence-base document’ has been produced (which needs checking by the ETG, for which a meeting is planned on 19 March).  Then, following a DSP workshop after Easter, a draft of the new Community Strategy will be put out for wider (public) consultation, prior to anticipated adoption in the Autumn.  (With respect to the Environment dimension of this document, ‘climate change’ is the number one issue, followed by ‘pressure of development on the environment’.)
5.  Review of the Environment Theme Group Terms of Reference and Membership.  Following consideration of this topic at the last ETG meeting, there is a now a simple one-page statement of ETG purpose, geographical coverage, membership, leadership, etc.  For the record, four representatives from the voluntary sector are invited, one each from DA21 and Transition Towns, and two (elected) from the Sustainability & Environment Forum (currently Trevor Muddimer & Mike Jones).
6. Dee Stephens of Natural England reported on the Olympic environmental group, the increasing workload and the guaranteed welcome for more supporters..