Steve Darling: Coastal communities hardest hit economically by Covid pandemic

A Paignton street - the likely new divide will be between cities and coastal communities, with the l

A Paignton street - the likely new divide will be between cities and coastal communities, with the latter being hardest hit economically by the Covid pandemic - Credit: Getty Images

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet has provoked a culture change in our country, whether it’s people wanting to see more biodiversity in our green spaces, protection of our seas from plastic pollution or a step change in how we recycle in our communities.

Recycling is one of the services that all residents use, unlike some of the more costly ones such as children’s or adults’ social care.

We want Torbay to reduce its carbon footprint and increase recycling rates from 40 per cent to 50 per cent over the next three years.

Our near neighbours in Teignbridge have a recycling rate of 56 per cent and East Devon’s is higher still.

Our draft Waste and Resources Strategy sets out some of the ways we can do this.

These include working with our communities on the impact of wasted resources and what can be recycled.

Another suggestion, which was supported by more than 50 per cent of respondents in our last budget consultation, is to introduce an opt-in chargeable kerbside garden waste service.

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I’d like to stress that we will not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. For example, we recognise that a proposal like residual waste collections at three-week intervals won’t be suitable for some properties such as flats or some homes in town centres. Please be reassured that we are still proposing to continue with weekly recycling and food waste collections.

Our top priority is to help the environment and reduce Torbay’s carbon footprint but we can’t make the changes without your help.

Did you know that up to 52 per cent in our household waste bins can be recycled and up to 20 per cent of content is actually food waste?

Please take some time to let us know what you think of our plans to drive up Torbay’s recycling rates.

You can take part in the Waste and Resources Strategy consultation on our website at until November 9.

Last week, I joined a virtual meeting with the National Coastal Communities Alliance – a partnership of local authorities, organisations and individuals who are championing coastal areas like Torbay.

Representatives came from all over the country, including East Yorkshire, Blackpool, Kent and Torbay. Despite the distance between us, we all share similar challenges.

We discussed how rather than the traditional north-south inequality divide, the likely new divide will be between cities and coastal communities, with the latter being hardest hit economically by the Covid pandemic.

That worrying news is something that we are aware of and are already working closely with a range of partners locally and regionally to try and address.

The united voice of coastal communities across the country will also help to strengthen our case for more support.

We will continue to work together to lobby Government to recognise the common challenges we all face.

One of the interesting ideas that the group have is the need for a minister for coastal communities to help focus Whitehall’s mind on our needs.

And finally, I’d like to thank all those who took part in our virtual Community Conference.

There were many heart-warming stories of how our communities worked together, especially during the Covid lockdown. Long may such cooperation continue.

We debated how to build on that spirit of cooperation and how to unlock funding to make a difference. We also heard that being open, honest, helpful, collaborative and friendly are just some of the ways people would like us to engage with our communities.

The team – including our partners in the Torbay Community Development Trust – are now reviewing in detail everything that emerged from those conversations and how we take it forward.

This conference is just part of how we want to encourage the development of a council that is more inclusive and works with its communities to drive positive change.