SOME findings from the Dorset climate change survey are being questioned by campaigners – alleging that one question over zero carbon target dates was asked in two different ways.

There has also been concern that the consultation failed to attract responses from hardly anyone younger than their mid-30s, and only 0.5% of the county’s adult population responded at all.

The councillors who has headed the consultation, Cllr Ray Bryan, has said that the way questions were phrased will not affect the outcome, but agrees that it would have been good to have heard from more younger people.

But despite the criticism there has also been praise for the consultation.

Dorchester councillor Andy Canning told a meeting on Monday evening that, overall, the Dorset Council had done well to reflect the views of residents – producing, he said, a comprehensive document for future debate.

Dorchester mayor Cllr Richard Biggs said his disappointment was that so few younger people responded to the consultation.

“There was hardly anyone under 35 and none of our MPs put in a submission, which I find astonishing really,” he told a town council meeting.

Cllr Biggs said there was also growing public frustration with Government policy which meant developers were still under no obligation to install energy-efficiency measures on new homes, including solar panels, or to install electric vehicle charge points.

At this week’s Dorset Council scrutiny committee (Thursd) climate campaigners have submitted a series of questions to chivvy the authority to follow up on its promises but also to question some of its actions to date.

Climate Extinction campaigner Caz Dennett, from Weymouth, has criticised the way questions were framed in the council’s climate consultation which, she says, gave respondents no chance to put forward some views about carbon neutral target dates in the short survey.

She says that, as result, the conclusion of the report should be declared invalid because the two surveys, in her opinion, asked significantly different questions.

Corfe Castle parish councillor Josephine Parish claims that since Covid 19 Dorset Council has not held any ‘genuine two way public engagement’ on the climate and ecological emergencies. She says the authority also missed an opportunity by not sending out information about the issues with recent council tax bills.

She says that although Dorset Council held no public meetings, where the public were able to ask questions, other organisations did so, proving that it could be done.

“Given the response rate of less than 0.5% of residents that Dorset Council achieved in its consultation process, will the scrutiny committee recommend that Dorset Council work closely with Dorset-based climate and environmental advocacy groups and organisations (including Parish & Town Councils) which are clearly able to reach – and communicate with – concerned residents more effectively?"

Other questions to this week’s scrutiny committee ask why there is no implementation schedule for the Local Transport Plan. Letter writer Helen Sumbler says dealing with transport matters is one of the best ways for the county to tackle climate change. She has also asked for an update on the Rights of Way Improvement Plan.

Andrew Carey has asked the council to do more to engage with the public and businesses to create momentum for change.

Annerose Weiler has asked how the £19m recently awarded to the council will be spent given that most of the work needs to have started by September 2021 and, in some cases, may mean buildings having to be closed.

Vicki Elcoate says she welcomed the council’s commitment to achieve its carbon savings ahead of Government targets, despite a low level of public support for the move. She asks how the council will encourage other organisations to also deliver the savings, and how they will be scrutinised and monitored by the council.

Julie-Ann Booker has questioned the council’s view on off-shore wind power. In her question she claims that the authority appears, in the Local Plan, to be opposing any offshore wind farms which are visible from the Jurassic Coast, as well as any other development which affects ‘the enjoyment’ of the coast.

She asks if this is in direct contradiction of the draft council climate and ecological emergency response.

Dorset Council is expected to give detailed responses to the questions at Thursday’s place and resources scrutiny committee.

Said Cllr Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment at Dorset Council: “Reaching younger audiences is a challenge for most councils – it’s one of the reasons we created a shorter Climate Change survey in the hope it would entice a few more younger people to engage with us on the subject and fill out the longer consultation form. However, while the findings of the shorter survey are useful in helping us formulate our ongoing approach to climate change, the results were not considered as part of the formal consultation process and so any differences between the phrasing of the two surveys has had no impact on our conclusions.

“As for public engagement, our communications team did a fantastic job under challenging circumstances to get 1,500 people to tell us what they thought of our draft climate strategy. We welcome the efforts of other organisations to hold virtual meetings to discuss the strategy and submit their outcomes, but our job was to ensure people’s views were captured via the survey as part of the formal consultation process and I’m more than satisfied we succeeded in that regard.

“Peoples’ assemblies and earlier target dates may be core priorities of certain activist groups, but we remain focussed on getting a fully developed, costed and achievable strategy implemented to tackle the climate and ecological emergency at hand. This is despite the view of an increasing number of Dorset residents who, according to the recent residents survey, do not appear to believe we should be treating it as a top priority. Dorset Council will continue to engage with our residents and inform them about this important work, including our agreed plan on how we spend the £19m we were recently awarded by central government to help towards our stated action plan.”