Climate Action: the Situation in BCP by Harriet Stewart-Jones
In April 2019, the towns of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole were shoehorned together under one authority as 'BCP'. It is one of the largest Councils in the UK, with 76 councillors, 33 wards and a population of 395,000.
At first, the Council was led by the Unity Alliance, a coalition of Lib-Dem, Labour, Poole People Party, Green Party, ALL and independents, who came together to form an administration with a narrow majority over the Conservatives. Faced with the mammoth task of amalgamating council services for the three towns and then being hit by the Covid epidemic, the Unity Alliance had an uphill struggle to move aspirations into action.
The Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency in the summer of 2019, and approved a draft action plan in December 2019. But In September 2020, following the deaths of two councillors and with no possibility of elections, the Conservative group carried a vote of no confidence in the Unity Alliance and set up a new administration, which is determined to “build back better”. It has marginalised the Climate Action Plan, though this is now out for public consultation; and it has published a “Big Plan”, largely focused on a digital future with 15,000 new homes, 13,000 new jobs and an “iconic cityscape” (See the Big Plan online).
Community groups in BCP
A diverse range of community groups is campaigning, lobbying and taking action on the Climate and Ecological Emergency in the BCP area. They include the long-established groups such as East Dorset Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Green Party and Transition Towns, and the more recent Zero Carbon Dorset, Extinction Rebellion, Active Travel and Plastic-Free groups.
A collaborative group has been meeting recently to prepare a response to the Council’s Climate Action Plan. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join in.
BCP also has a wide range of food-based organisations, nature and wildlife groups and volunteer groups. We’re working on the creation of a directory, bringing links and contacts together in one place (compiled by Steve Harper) which you can access via Transition Town Poole website.
BCP Council background
Sociodemographically, BCP is extraordinarily diverse, having some of the most expensive properties in the world cheek by jowl with areas of deprivation. We have major problems with transport (one of the most congested towns in the UK), air pollution, water pollution, flooding, land prices leading to loss of green spaces, an ageing population, food poverty and unemployment (in patches).
On the plus side we have the second largest natural harbour in the world, a (sometimes nationally successful) football team, 7 miles of sandy beaches, a priory, remnants of heathland, and arts and cultural centres.