DORSET Council’s climate portfolio holder has defended criticisms that the authority has been too slow to respond to the climate emergency it declared more than two years ago.

Cllr Ray Bryan has said the authority is working hard to spend £19m of Government grants to tackle climate-related problems.

Some of the money is going into making council buildings, including County Hall, reduce their carbon footprint, while some schools are being offered a share of the funding for similar work.

Cllr Bryan told Monday’s Cabinet meeting that survey work had discovered that not all public buildings were suitable for the measures – but, so far, 25 projects had been approved and others identified for the future.

Amongst these are 15 schools identified for air source heat pumps with leisure centres in Purbeck and Blandford which have swimming pools ear-marked for LED lighting, solar panels and upgrades to their electrical infrastructure.

Once all of the projects identified so far have been completed they will create total CO2 savings of around 2,600 tonnes annually, and bring financial savings of around £375,000 each year.

Said Cllr Ray Bryan, Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment:

“This is a very ambitious project, to be delivered in a short period of time, as all works need to be installed and working by the end of March 2022. Therefore, it’s vitally important that we spend this money wisely and efficiently.

“We’ve been working extremely hard on making sure we get the best “bang-for-buck” when deciding not only which buildings will benefit most from these projects, but which measures would be most effective in reducing our carbon footprint. And, of course, the less money we spend on energy the more we can put back into essential council services.

“We’ll work with local companies on these upgrades wherever possible and share our progress once the heat pumps, solar panels etc. are installed so our residents can not only see what we’re up to but perhaps investigate whether such measures might help them reduce their own carbon footprint.”

The money comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with Dorset winning one of the highest awards in the country. Cllr Bryan says the council now aims to have ‘shelf ready’ projects which it can put forward, at a moment’s notice, when the next round of grant funding is offered.

The authority is also in the process of appointing a director level officer to head up its climate and ecological emergency team.

He said it was unfair that the council had been criticised for not doing enough when it was doing much more than other authorities.

Several councillors congratulated him and the council team on their efforts including Purbeck’s Beryl Ezzard: “We’re all eco warriors here and I do want to see this going forward in a big way,” he told the meeting.

Dorset Council say the projected funding spend estimated on climate and ecological projects could bring a financial benefit of £375,000 a year.

Subject to being finally approved the plans include:

£1m – Heating controls upgrade, replacement, and software update at over 120 properties.

£12.5m – Low carbon heating installation, including air source heat pumps, upgraded radiators, capacity improvements to electrical infrastructure and new heating controls.

£4m – Solar panel installation including at County Hall and several schools.

£1.5m – Upgrade to LED lighting at a range of sites.

It is estimated that these measures will result in CO2 savings of:

Heating controls – 1,500 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

Heating installations (ASHP) –over 600 tonnes per year.

Lighting – over 200 tonnes per year.

Solar Panels – over 300 tonnes per year.