Giovanna Lewis and Annie Webster – Speaking for the young and the unborn

Why Rebel?

Recently I read Jay Griffiths’ wonderful and beautiful polemic – “Why Rebel?” Jay spoke directly to my heart: we need to rebel because if fail to do so, then our children and grandchildren will inherit a despoiled and burning world.

Jay reminds us that already we have destroyed 83% of wild mammals, that the numbers of insects are in a steady decline, that birdlife is in perilous free fall, that reefs are bleached, soils exhausted and extreme weather events are on the rise.

Tell the truth

Jay speaks of the bravery of those who follow Extinction Rebellion’s injunction: “tell the truth”. I have no doubt that History will endorse this judgement. They will be celebrated as truth speakers, and those who now decry them as “anarchists” or “eco terrorists” will be revealed as either unthinking or malicious, spreading a wicked agenda of denial.

Speaking truth to power

I thought of Jay’s praise for truth speakers, for those who rebel, when I heard of the actions of Giovanna Lewis and Annie Webster at a Dorset Council Meeting on 14 April 2022.

Giovanna is a Labour Isle of Portland Councillor, who campaigned tirelessly against the closure of Portland Community Hospital. She supports Extinction Rebellion. Her daughter has put herself at risk to highlight the need for a Green, sustainable, future.

Giovanna is one of the campaigners fighting to stop the construction of a waste incinerator on the Isle of Portland. The facility will be cited very near a deprived community, and burn waste imported into the county.

Not fit for purpose

Legal advice from the leading national law firm, Freeths (1), sent to Dorset Council Head of Planning on March 31, 2022, described the most recent set of documents submitted by the company behind the proposal, Powerfuel Portland, as not fit for purpose, and that the lack of opportunity provided for meaningful public participation was in breach of the Aarhus Convention. (2)

Freeths made use of expert advice from Air Quality Consultants (3) and Jonathon Cox, Ecological Associates. (4)

The advice makes clear that there are “multiple shortcomings” in the submission made by Powerfuel Portland, and that no sound evidence has been presented that internationally designated sites would remain unaffected by emissions from the Incinerator.

Moreover, Freeths advice states:

“If Dorset Council were to grant consent to the ERF (Energy Recovery Facility) on the basis of a HRA (Habitats Regulation Assessment) reflecting the Applicant’s updated Shadow HRA, the decision would be unlawful, and the permission would be quashed by the court upon application for judicial review” (5)

Freeths recommends that a meeting should be held between the Portland Association (the campaigners), Jonathon Cox Associates (an Ecological Consultancy, whose findings informed Freeths’ conclusions), Natural England (a statutory consultee on the natural environment) and Dorset Council

Campaigners waiting to see how Dorset Council responds to the advice.

Green motion defeated

When Dorset Council met on 14 April 2022, a motion from Weymouth Green Councillor Clare Sutton called for national legislation to be strengthened to allow Councils to reject fossil fuel applications. Conservative Councillors voted against the motion 41 votes to 30. (6)

Disturbing local context

It should be noted that – despite the Climate Crisis (which Dorset Council has acknowledged) – that there have proposals put forward to drill for oil in beautiful countryside near the small village of Aethelhampton. (7)

There has also been a concern expressed about seismic surveying for oil in Purbeck – an area of outstanding natural beauty. (8)

Spencer Flower’s Conservative Motion

After defeating Clare Sutton’s motion, a second motion put forward by the ruling Conservative Group asked the government to back legislation ensuring UK energy self-sufficiency.

Spencer Flower, Dorset Conservative Group Leader, forwarded the motion, seconded by Littlemoor and Preston Conservative Councillor, Louie O’Leary.

Giovanna and Annie step forward

Louie O’Leary, in seconding the motion, said that he would welcome nuclear power rather than be beholden to Russian dictators or Middle Eastern states, when Giovanna and Annie entered the Chamber, read out a statement condemning the Council’s lack of action on climate change, and glued their hands to a desk. (9)

Giovanna tells me that she and her fellow rebel were heckled, jostled, and that one Councillor – she has not told me his or her name, threatened to “rip her hand from the desk”.

The Council Chamber was cleared, with Councillors ushered into another room, where it was made clear that Spencer Flower’s motion would be put, but there would be no further amendments or debate. (10)

Perhaps predictably, Spencer Flower described Giovanna and Annie as “anarchists”. (11)

Dorset Council – wake up!

Giovanna told the Dorset Echo that by voting against the Green Motion to strengthen planning laws on fossil fuel applications, Dorset Council had lost “a small, but important chance, to lobby for change”.

Conservative Councillors had made use of the war in Ukraine to justify the opening up of oil and coal fields.

Dorset Council need to wake up: “virtually all the world experts agree that we have two or three years to take decisive action on climate … after that it will be too late”.

If Dorset Council were “serious about their climate and ecological emergency declaration to pass Clare Sutton’s (Green) motion would have been an easy thing to do.”

Annie said that by voting against the Green Motion, the Conservatives would be putting Dorset residents at risk from increased Climate Change – “what they want is business as usual”.

Grannies for the future

Giovanna and Annie described themselves as “Grannies for the future”.  (12)          

Fearless and resolute

I would describe them as truth speakers, fearless and resolute.

Giovanna told me that she and Annie were left, glued to the Council desk. The specialist Police Glue Removal Team were in Kent. They managed to free themselves by making use of Covid alcohol gel as a solvent.

Labour County Councillor, Paul Kimber, stayed with them and offered moral support.

Reminding Dorset Council

May 16, 2022 will be the third anniversary of the inaugural meeting of Dorset Council, and its declaration of a climate an ecological emergency.

Since then, Weymouth, Portland and Dorchester Extinction Rebellion point out, Dorset Council has made contradictory decisions that undermine its stated commitments, missed opportunities to engage with residents and community groups, and failed to deliver a comprehensive climate strategy and action plan.

They urge people to attend in person Dorset Council’s Annual Meeting on Thursday 12 May at 6.30 PM.

Extinction Rebellion and many other Climate Action and Climate Justice Groups from across Dorset will be there.

The aim is to remind Dorset Council of its Declaration of Climate and Ecological Emergency, and to renew awareness of the need for urgent action to avoid catastrophe


(1) Freeths is a leading national law firm with 12 offices across the UK, described as one composed of “free thinking lawyers”. Its clients include Lloyds Bank, Aldi and Experian.

The website is:

(2) Freeths’ letter, 31 March, 2022, to Dorset Council Head of Planning, re: Application Reference: WP/20/00692/DCC

(3) Air Quality Consultants has played a leading role on developing air quality monitoring and assessment both nationally and internationally. It frequently provides expert advice at Public Inquiries

The website is:

(4) Jonathon Cox, Ecological Consultants, are based in Lymington, and provide environmental consultancy

The website:

(5) See: (2)

(6) The Mirror, 19 April 2022 –

(7) – “Aethelhampton oil drill plan ‘inconsistent’ with climate policy”

(8) – “Seismic Surveys being within weeks across Dorset”

(9) Dorset Echo, 18 April 2022, “Grannies for the future protester give reasons why they disrupted Dorset Council Meeting”

(10) – Dorset Live News

(11) – see (9)

(12) – see (9)