MAJOR events and festivals could be banned from taking place on Lyme Regis seafront during the peak season as of 2019.
The suggestion that festivals should not be held during the school holidays or on Bank Holidays, when the town is already busy, has been put forward as part of a new events policy, which is expected to be approved by the town council and enforced from 2019 onwards.
The policy would apply to all major events and festivals held on town council land, including Marine Parade, with the exception of Lifeboat Week in July, Regatta & Carnival Week in August and the Fossil Festival on the early May Bank Holiday, as councillors said these have always “historically” been held on set dates.
The council’s own Community Week in August 2019 – when it is hoped the Red Arrows will return to Lyme Regis – will also not be affected.
Events planned for next year which will be affected include Jazz Jurassica and B Sharp’s Busking Festival, usually held jointly on the late May Bank Holiday; Lyme Folk Weekend, held at the end of the school summer holiday; and a new Caribbean Festival which was set to take place on the August Bank Holiday.
The Dorset Street Food Festival was staged on Lyme Regis seafront for the first time over the late May Bank Holiday this year, and would also be affected if organisers wanted to hold it at the same time again in 2019.
The suggestion of restricting when events could be held was part of a report on event management by town clerk John Wright, presented to members of the council’s Tourism, Community & Publicity Committee this week.
The report listed a number of concerns raised about recent events held in the town, including food stalls from out of area competing with local traders; too many events distracting from the nature and character of the town; more major events encroaching into the main season when the town “would normally be full”; council control over event organisers not being exercised effectively; and event organisers failing to adhere to their commitments, mostly regarding vehicles on the seafront and waste management.
A number of suggestions were made for councillors to consider, and a full events policy will now be put together by officers for further consideration and final approval at a future full council meeting.
Members voted against restricting events so they could only be held by local organisations, or charitable and non-profit-making organisations, but they agreed that the dates on which events are held should be restricted to encourage more to be held in the “shoulder seasons”, rather than during the peak summer months.
‘Cutting the throat’ of local traders
Councillor Owen Lovell said: “We don’t need any additional events during those weeks to bring extra people into Lyme. It’s a complete waste of money.”
Referring to the recent Dorset Street Food Festival, Councillor Lovell said no one came to the town specifically for the event and it took trade away from local businesses.
He added: “We are creating a situation of our own traders having bread taken out of their mouths. The seafront is the prime place for people to go and if you put a business there it will cut the throat of those not on the seafront.”
Councillor Lovell also expressed concern that the increasing number of major events would mean local organisations would no longer be able to find available time to hold regular fundraisers, such as beach stalls, on the seafront.
He continued: “The last few years has been utterly chaotic. People think we are a joke in managing the seafront.”
Councillor Jeff Scowen argued in favour of events being held throughout the summer season, and called for councillors not to enforce any restrictions until 2020, as people would have already started working on events for 2019.
“We are a resort, we are a community, people like to have things to do on their day off. There is a question of managing it, but it’s not as clear cut as just banning all events on Bank Holidays,” he said.
Councillor Stan Williams said there was “more than enough people” coming to Lyme Regis on Bank Holidays and the situation had “got silly”, with residents of nearby towns no longer being able to get into the town.
Councillor Richard Doney said he was concerned about enforcing a blanket ban, as this could have “unintended consequences”. For example, he said staff from universities and museums who ran stalls at the Fossil Festival needed it to be held over a Bank Holiday, allowing them time to clear up and travel home after the event.
He expressed concerns that if the festival was moved, it would lose high profile exhibitors such as the Natural History Museum.
It was later agreed that the Fossil Festival would be exempt from the rule, along with Lifeboat Week, Regatta & Carnival Week, and Community Week, as it had been held on the same weekend for more than 10 years.
There was some discussion over whether Jazz Jurassica, formerly known as the Jazz & Blues Festival, should also be exempt, but Councillor Lovell pointed out that this used to be held at the beginning of July – not within a school or Bank Holiday – and was then moved to the late May Bank Holiday.
Councillor calls for members to be ‘more welcoming’
Councillor Scowen told members that he was behind the planned Caribbean Festival in August 2019, and he had hoped the event would “bring the community together” and involve local traders.
Councillor Sean Larcombe argued that Councillor Scowen should have declared a personal interest before taking part in the discussion, as he was an event organiser. The Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said it was down to individual councillors to declare their own interests, and if Councillor Larcombe had a problem he should take it to West Dorset’s monitoring officer.
Councillor Scowen replied: “Thanks a lot Sean, I’m only trying to help the community.”
Councillor Scowen asked for members to be “more welcoming” and “open-minded”.
“We will wake up one day and all of these events will have gone somewhere else, to towns like Seaton,” he said.
He later continued: “It’s alright us sitting around talking about these people who organise events, but it takes an awful lot of work. You can’t expect people to put things on in the shoulder seasons; people won’t be here, the weather is more likely to be inclement.”
The mayor replied: “If it is promoted well enough, people who want to come to those events will come.”
There was also a debate on whether out-of-town traders should be allowed to sell alcohol at major events, with Councillor Williams arguing that there was already “plenty of pubs in Lyme Regis”. However, councillors were split on the matter and were unable to come to a decision.
The council also refused a requested from organisers of Lyme Regis Lifeboat Week to move its events dates next year from July 27 to August 2 2019 to August 10 to 17, as schools are breaking up slightly later than normal. This would be after Regatta & Carnival Week and would clash with the council’s Community Week, so the request was refused.