Buckfastleigh Town Council held its first ever outdoor council meeting in recorded history in Victoria Park.

The fortunate break in the weather meant the shelter provided by the covered wooden meeting space (plus temporary open-sided gazebo) was just a bonus, though the sunshine meant that participants had to speak up to be heard over the sound of skateboarders in the nearby rink as well as the busy A38 behind.

So much so in fact, that the chairman (and town mayor), Sue Clarke (who was re-elected along with deputy chairman /mayor, Erin Kohler-Ockmore at this annual meeting of the council) had to rely on a megaphone to be sure of being heard at the back!

Several young skateboarders joined the meeting for short periods and got a taste of local democracy in action along with the older residents in attendance. Mayor Sue said that it was: ‘A nice change but not something we’d want to do every week.

‘There’s a lot of background noise that makes it harder for everyone to hear and we won’t always be this lucky with the weather!’

At the meeting the councillors also decided to add their backing to the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill that proposes accelerating the 2050 deadline for zero carbon and setting up a Citizens’ Assembly to help develop emergency strategy and is now on it’s way through parliament.

The Government current target’s are: ‘Too little, too late and leave us set to exceed the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C between 2030 & 2040, which will devastate human and wildlife populations’.

In addition they awarded a £2,000 grant to create a wildlife garden, reveal the cave wall crystal formations and create a visitor viewing area at the William Pengelly Cave Studies Centre.

The Council had been forced into meeting al fresco in protest at the government’s insistence that remote online meetings were no longer legal.

Cllr Andy Stokes, who had proposed the compromise, pointed out: ‘Some of the councillors have not yet received a vaccine, or are vulnerable and if we meet in the town hall we would not have room for members of the public to attend safely – at least this way anyone who wanted to come along was able to, which is what democracy is all about.

‘We don’t understand why we are being forced to abandon the distancing measures before the rest of the public – it makes sense for something like a funeral but there is no need for us to rush to meet up, it just adds unnecessary risk when we are just coming out of danger.

‘We have managed perfectly well online for the last year.’

The town councillors agreed that they would like to see the government re-assess the out-dated rules for council meeting structures and to make it possible for people to attend meetings both face-to-face and remotely.

They have written to MP Mel Stride and the Secretary of State for Local Government Robert Jenrick making their case.

Cllr Stokes added: ‘We believe we should make the process of local democracy as accessible as possible especially to those with limited mobility and child-care responsibilities – it’s about time we moved into the 21st Century!’