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Sustainable Shaftesbury

Information and reflections from Richard Thomas ...

So, after 18 months of work by a miscellaneous group of resolute local volunteer experts (many participants in the Planet Shaftesbury network), Shaftesbury Town Council finally adopted its first comprehensive 'Think Global, Act Local' strategy to combat the challenge of climate change and biodiversity loss at its meeting on 20 February.

The production and approval of the multi-part 'Shaftesbury Vision Statement and Masterplan', subtitled 'Shaftesbury’s response to the climate and nature emergency', with its seven appendices of action plans for biodiversity recovery, trees, allotments, wildflowers and open spaces management, was a considerable achievement by a working group of some 12 people assembled at the request and under the aegis of the town council - an achievement acknowledged by the town council.

But it is an achievement that was not straight forward and not achieved without a struggle. A notable feature of the exercise, and no doubt of the nature of all such enterprises involving local councils in more areas than just Shaftesbury, is the politics of climate change in a fragile and fracturing democracy.

The final illustrated document was presented to the town council for adoption in December but deferred for further discussion after several members of the council objected to a number of items in it - mainly on the grounds that it was not the council's role to tell people what they could do in their own gardens or put into their own stomachs. In effect, that it is not a town council's role to stop people killing the planet or themselves. 

In the event, it only took the removal of just two items from the detailed action masterplan for all the earlier objectors to vote in favour of adoption on 20 February. Such are the quirks of democracy. The question now is...

...So what happens next?

The approved plans include a total of nearly 100 actions that can and should be taken under the headings Energy, Travel and transport, Biodiversity, Land management, Food consumption and production, Housing and commercial development, Waste reduction and management, the Circular economy, Water management and Air quality. Each action has been given a green, orange or red coding - green meaning action is already being taken (mainly within the town council itself), orange that action is pending, and red that nothing is being done yet.

The red items include most of the really ambitious, game-changing actions such as setting up a community-run energy company to generate our own energy needs from renewable sources such as solar and wind power, encouraging more and better local food production, and making developers do more to protect and enhance nature.

The dozen or so volunteers appear determined by and large to continue their work to make sure as many as possible of the agreed actions actually happen so will continue to meet and welcome input from anyone else with similar sympathies. The approved document stipulates that a review of the plan will start in July and so the working group continue to meet to refine and add to the actions needed and in particular to suggest items for funded work in time for the new council's discussions on setting its budget for 2025-26 that start in September.

High on the 'to do' list is also ensuring that the Sustainable Shaftesbury masterplan becomes an integral part of the Shaftesbury Neighbourhood Plan, currently under review, as well as STC's five-year strategic plan that expires next year. Members of the Sustainable Shaftesbury working group have always been clear that without the sustainability vision being central to both the development of the town and the town council's own strategic plans it has little meaning or relevance and it is to that end that most focus is now being directed.

SS Vision Statement Approved Feb 24
Download PDF • 2.77MB

SS Appendix A Action Plan Approved Feb 24
Download PDF • 798KB

SS Appendix B Biodiversity Checklist Approved Feb 24
Download PDF • 1.71MB

SS Appendix C Town Tree Plan Approved Feb 24
Download PDF • 1.69MB

To join in - find Sustainable Shaftesbury events amongst the listings on this website (which will also include a Sustainable Shaftesbury project page shortly). You can also find out more from Shaftesbury Town Council at 01747 852420.

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