LARGE amounts of rubbish left on Lyme Regis seafront over the busy Bank Holiday weekend was described as an “embarrassment” and a “disaster” at a council meeting this week.
The town’s infrastructure and resources were pushed to the limits over the weekend, as thousands of visitors descended on Lyme Regis to enjoy the hottest early May Bank Holiday on record.
The council received a dressing down from the public and some of its own members at Wednesday night’s meeting. Litter strewn across the seafront, management of seafront events and vehicles on Marine Parade, and park and ride buses unable to keep up with demand were among the concerns raised.
Repeating concerns raised about waste collections on the seafront expressed at last month’s annual town meeting, resident Betty Holmes said the problem had been “exacerbated” by the busy Bank Holiday weekend.
Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, she said: “Having done such a splendid job of discouraging the public from feeding the seagulls, both the town council and Dorset Waste Partnership have enabled the dear creatures to feast upon the uncollected waste piled up along our beautiful seafront and also around the town.
“We need immediate action not discussions. These should have been going on during the winter months. In just over a fortnight we have a street food festival and half term to contend with.”
Mrs Holmes put forward several suggestions for improving waste collections that she said would not increase council tax, including having large wheelie bins placed at strategic points; a late night collection which would prevent the need for an early morning collection; signs to encourage visitors to take their waste home with them; a volunteer group equipped to help clean up when necessary; and increased pay for council staff to work on Bank Holidays.
Town clerk John Wright said there “is a plan to do this” and the council had recruited additional staff, but he admitted “things went badly over the weekend” due to miscommunication between the town council and Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP).
“We shouldn’t have let that happen,” he added.
Another resident shouted from the public forum: “It’s been disgraceful!”
The town clerk continued: “We don’t want this to occur again. We have spent some time planning what we need to do, we’ve brought in additional resources and we have got people working later in the evening but we need facilities to dispose of it.
“It wasn’t good this weekend but we intend for it to get better.”
Mrs Holmes said the same problems occurred a year ago and the council was “still not further forward”.
Councillor Derek Hallett said he had received several phone calls from concerned residents over the weekend about the level of litter but he did not know who to direct them to. He described the situation as “horrendous”.
Councillor Hallett added that the Charmouth Road park and ride bus drivers struggled to get in and out of the town centre and keep up with demand.
“The drivers were sick of it. It was organised chaos and we are to blame, nobody else,” he added.
The Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said: “We should think ourselves lucky in Lyme that so many visitors wanted to come and it was an exceedingly hot weekend.”
Resident Julie Sheppard said she was “shocked” by the level of debris left on the seafront.
She added: “One positive point that we should hold onto was that our visitors didn’t seem to litter the beach. Many visitors had tried to dispose of their rubbish responsibly but couldn’t because the provisions were not there.
“Our visitors are behaving very responsibly but I think we have to support those responsible visitors more than we do by making sure we have sufficient rubbish facilities down there.”
Councillor Hallett said a lot of the mess was also the responsibility of DWP and asked Lyme’s district councillors to follow this up.
District and county councillor Daryl Turner said DWP had not yet moved to its summer programme of waste collections, which was one of the issues over the weekend, but argued that the workmen worked “extremely hard” and did “a lot of good work in this town”.
The town clerk admitted that better communication was needed between the town council and DWP, as it was not known in advance that DWP had not started their summer collections. He said that town council staff did work extended hours over the weekend but were “unable to cope” with the volume of rubbish.
He added: “There will be a very robust conversation with DWP, where we’ve also got to admit our deficiencies, to carry this forward for the rest of the summer so we don’t have this embarrassing situation again.”
Councillor Jeff Scowen said the seafront was a mess but there were “mitigating circumstances” at the weekend because of the extremely hot weather and lessons had been learnt.
Councillor Owen Lovell said the “whole saga was embarrassing”, as the town clerk had been quoted in the local press last week saying that the council was investing additional resources to keep the seafront clean, yet the “first weekend was a disaster”.
“I just hope now we’ve had a wake up call, again, it will get sorted. These things keep repeating themselves,” he added.
Health and safety concerns relating to seafront events and vehicles on Marine Parade were also raised, with local businessman George Symonds saying the council office was “letting the people of Lyme Regis down”.