No end to traffic chaos

OUR new council will sit for five years, a year longer than usual to fall in line with the new Dorset Council’s first term. During that time one of the town council’s prime issues will surely be Lyme’s continuing traffic problems, an issue that many believe is unsolvable.

It’s not as though successive councils have not given attention to this over years. I well remember Stan Williams standing for the old borough council in the late 1960s on a pledge to deal with the town’s traffic chaos, favouring a one-way system. That was 50 years or more ago and no one has really come up with an answer as the problem has grown more severe year after year.

So do we accept that there is no answer or will the new town councillors strive to ease the situation with fresh initiatives?

The matter has been brought back in focus with the commissioning of a transport feasibility study by a company called Hydrock, recently released to councillors, and costing £25,000.

The prime purpose of this report was to provide evidence of the need for a second park and ride operation on the Sidmouth Road side of town, following East Devon District Council’s refusal of planning permission.

Temporary permission for the park and ride facility just over the Devon border, in the parish of Uplyme, was granted to ease Lyme’s parking problems whilst the Charmouth Road car park, operated by the former West Dorset District Council, was used as a contractors’ compound for the eastern cliff coast protection work. It was never meant to be a permanent arrangement.

Subsequent negotiations with East Devon to continue using the site of the old football field for park and ride fell apart amid accusations of inefficiencies on both sides. Uplyme Parish Council also got dragged, unfairly so in my opinion, into the argument that ensued.

The Sidmouth Road issue is now well and truly dead. As one town councillor told me this week: “We lost the battle and we must move on.” The council are unlikely to try and reopen negotiations, although there are many in the town, particularly the traders, who would like to see it operating again.

However, the analysis shown in the Hydrock report did not warrant a second park and ride because the existing car parks were capable of dealing with the influx of vehicles, even in peak times.

I should point out that the Hydrock report was commissioned by the old council, not the current one, and it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the incoming councillors, and those who were re-elected, are not highly impressed with the report.

The report is primarily about parking and not traffic, and there has been some negative comment about the commissioning of such an expensive exercise. The fact is that the report, whilst professional in its presentation, doesn’t really say anything that the councillors and townsfolk did not know already.

There are one or two statistics about traffic flow that are interesting, but most of the report concentrates on Lyme’s parking facilities and how they might be changed to accommodate more. One conclusion, however, that the town council-owned Cabanya car park, a long-stay facility as it is the nearest park to the beach, should be changed to short term seems way off the mark.

Those who would read the report to draw their own conclusions can do so by downloading it from the agenda of the Town Management & Highways Committee on the town council website. I did just that and took it to bed with me to read, sad man that I am, but could not work out why I couldn’t follow it, when I realised that it had only printed out every other page. A complete copy, however, is available at the town council offices.

One issue that has troubled past councils is the number of double decker buses travelling through the town and why the current timetable often sees two of these large vehicles passing each other in the narrowest part of town, Church Street.

Discussions have taken place with the bus operator, First, but they will not budge in adjusting the timetable for financial viability reasons, but would consider providing drivers with radio contact to ensure they don’t cross at the same time. That does not seem to have happened.

Extending traffic lights back to the old London Inn in Church Street has been put forward many times but rejected by the former county council because they believed it would exacerbate the situation as there would be too long a gap between lights and tailbacks would increase.

Introducing a one-way system has also been mooted on a number of occasions and a trial of such was advocated by former mayor Owen Lovell who may well campaign again for this should he win his seat back in the by-election on August 8. It’s difficult to see how this would work without using Anning Road and Woodmead Road and it would not be possible for double decker buses to negotiate Woodmead Road.

The town council is already pressing for better signage to direct traffic from the A35 to the Charmouth Road park and ride via the Fernhill roundabout to stop vehicles travelling through the town, seeking approval from Highways England, an initiative which MP Oliver is supporting.

Other issues that have been discussed include the restricting of coach trips from the town centre, maximising the Charmouth Road park and ride and ensuring deliveries to Broad Street shops are limited to a set time early in the morning.

Lyme has a rich council, openly acknowledged by councillors, and it may well be necessary to throw more resources at this problem, which they can afford. Perhaps the appointment of a traffic management officer on a seasonal basis could help to ease the situation and keep the traffic flowing during the summer months.

There is a strong view among many that there is no real solution to this long-running blight on summer in Lyme and we have to live with it so what’s the point of throwing money at it? They have a point.

Hard working skittle league secretary Mark Williams receives a trophy from The George landlord Dean Herbert for a top score of 91 during the season

Still skittling after a difficult season

SKITTLES has been the main winter pas-  time in Lyme for more years than anyone can remember. There was a league in the town before the Second World War and it was reformed in the late 1940s when Lionel Cornish put in a new alley at the New Inn (now part of the Royal Lion).

When I first started playing as a 17 year-old, the league had use of eight alleys – Talbot Arms, Rousdon Social Club, Wootton Social Club, The George (Charmouth), Coach & Horses (Charmouth), Pilot Boat, Ship Inn and the New Inn. Later, an alley was opened at the Rock Point Inn.

With two men’s division and one for the ladies, skittles is still very popular in and around Lyme, but during the last year the lack of alleys has been a real problem.

The alley at the Pilot Boat was lost last year when the pub was refurbished and another one disappeared when the Rock Point was closed and sold to St Austell Brewery, leaving the Ship as Lyme’s only pub to accommodate skittles.

The alarm bells really started to ring when the Ship was closed temporarily when landlord Alan Hensen left. Fortunately, the Ship was re-opened when the staff from the Pilot Boat took over running the bar in evenings, which may well have saved the league from extinction.

It is hoped a new landlord will take over the Ship when a refurbishment is completed and Palmers Brewery have confirmed that the alley will be retained.

The lack of alleys has caused a huge amount of work for league secretary Mark Williams who did a marvellous job in rescheduling the fixtures and they managed to get through the season with all league and cup games played.

I attended the annual presentation night at the Power Boat Club last week and it was good to renew old skittling acquaintances and to see the league in fine spirits despite continued concerns about the future of the Ship Inn.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 547 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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