DORSET Council has been ‘put on notice’ by lawyers that it could face a legal challenge if it fails to introduce meaningful climate change plans by the end of October.

A letter from lawyers, ClientEarth, says that having declared a climate emergency the council will be in violation of legal obligations unless it comes up with a meaningful plan.

But the authority says that while it is continuing to work hard on its plans it won’t be bound by what it describes as: “the suggested arbitrary and unenforceable deadlines.”

The letter says that Dorset Council has until October 28th to explain how it will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets and ensure that these targets are central to their new planning policy.

There has been complaints that planning assessments are failing to include climate change.

ClientEarth lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said “Too often climate change is perceived as just a national or international issue and therefore solely the responsibility of central government.”

He is urging the council to take the issue seriously, at the local level.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Cabinet Member for Highways, Travel and Environment and Climate Change Executive Advisory Panel chairman, said: “Dorset Council is fully aware of its legal obligations as a local authority and, unlike many councils around the country, we have declared a climate emergency.

”Our Climate Change Executive Advisory Panel and Technical Officers group have been working hard to gather information and pull together our plans to help tackle climate change. We are working at pace within the democratic system and cannot be bound by the suggested arbitrary and unenforceable deadlines.

“We are currently finalising a robust Corporate Plan and fighting climate change is one of our key priorities. Climate change mitigation actions will be interwoven within all aspects of the services we deliver as an organisation, including the development of our Local Plan, which will ensure policies are in accordance with the Climate Change Act.”

Cllr Bryan says the council will continue to engage with the community and environmental organisations and says the action plans should be ready early next year.

Members of Bridport Extinction Rebellion has backed the legal letter and argues that local councils should now ‘embed low carbon measures in strategic plans across such areas as health and social care, transport and housing.’

The group says that in response to what it sees as the widening gap between Dorset Council’s rhetoric on climate and its actions – with the axing of further bus routes from September 22nd – Extinction Rebellion will ‘green’ Bridport Bus Station and host a People’s Assembly there on Saturday 21st September.

Speakers from Dorset Council have been invited. Veteran campaigner Bob Driscoll from the West Dorset transport action group will speak and there will be a talk by writer Horatio Morpurgo about how climate change is already affecting wildlife in the UK.

Extinction Rebellion’s ‘walking bus’ will pass through the town between 10 and 11 to collect ‘passengers’ and conduct them to the station.

The People’s Assembly from 11.30 to 12.30 will include a formal discussion with local people about how public transport might be managed better, for both people and the environment. Participants, working together in small groups, will be asked the question that will be put to the People’s Assembly in the bus station: ‘What would it take to get you out of your car?’