Maintaining services throughout the COVID pandemic

THROUGHOUT the COVID-19 crisis, the town council has been working had to maintain its services and adapt to new ways of working.

Most of our services are now up and running with COVID-19 Secure safety guidelines in place, but there are some facilities which remain affected, either because of restrictions imposed by the government, or because we feel we cannot operate them safely.

Perhaps the biggest change for us has been our financial situation, which has weakened since the beginning of the crisis. We estimate the overall cost of coronavirus to the council to be around £300,000.

With the risk of further restrictions or lockdowns, we’ll continue to feel this long into the future and have to act now to strengthen our financial position.

In the past, we have been fortunate enough to hold a healthy reserve, make a surplus each year, and spend generous amounts on projects and grants to local organisations. We now find ourselves in a position where we need to find new ways of generating income and cutting back on costs.

This is a daunting position to be in and difficult decisions will have to be made, but we are exploring all options to ensure we’re acting in the best interests of the council and the town.

On a more positive note, the pandemic has helped us to find more efficient ways of working, such as less printing, improved communication by using video conferencing, less travelling, and improved partnership working with other organisations.

All our council meetings are now held via the video conferencing facility Zoom, which has made our meetings more accessible than ever to the public, and better delegation to officers and members has meant some decisions can be made quicker.

We’re now intending on equipping all our councillors with IT equipment so everyone is able to fully participate in meetings and fulfil their role of representing the electors.

Our annual meeting of electors wasn’t held in April as planned, but residents are welcome to raise any issue with us at any time of the year, so please don’t think you have to wait until next year!

The council offices remain closed, as per the government instruction to work at home if you can, but with good systems and flexible working arrangements in place, this has had very little impact on how we deliver our services.

Our external works’ team continue to come into work every day but to keep them safe, they have been assigned their own ‘zones’ to work within and have separate rest areas.

The situation is changing regularly and we have to be able to react quickly to any changes which affect us. That’s why we have a dedicated coronavirus page on our website, www.lymeregistowncouncil.gov.uk/coronavirus and we provide regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please follow us to keep up-to-date.

New sculpture ‘Persephone’ by Martin Staniforth now on display in Langmoor Gardens

New sculptures on display

SEVERAL exciting new sculptures will be featured in the Langmoor and Lister Gardens.

The gardens provide a perfect outdoor gallery for a range of contemporary sculptures by local and regional artists.

For 2020, the Lyme Regis Sculpture Trail will feature an eclectic mix of artworks from some of the south’s leading artists. The new artworks reflect links to the local landscape, mental health and wellbeing, and the environment.

Three new sculptures will join the five already in place, taking you on an intriguing trail around the paths of the gardens.

One of the country’s leading sculptors, Hamish Mackie, is exhibiting his ‘Jurassic Ammonite’ at the western end of the gardens near the mini golf.

Hamish wanted to create a contemporary sculpture that also conveys a sense of the timeless beauty of these fossils. The artist used a number of techniques in his work, sculpting in clay and then using a gas torch to burn the surface at high temperature.

The classical traditions of ancient Greece inspired Martin Staniforth’s sculpture ‘Persephone’, blended with a contemporary twist. This bronze resin sculpture is located at the eastern end of the gardens below the Alexandra Hotel.

Artist Victoria Westerway was specially commissioned to create artwork specific to the gardens, along with her existing peace ‘Reader’, which sits discreetly on a bench.

The new installation, ‘Tree Pods’, are willow sculptures reflecting the Jurassic geology of Lyme’s stretch of coastline. Hundreds of withies from the Somerset Levels have been twisted, looped and tied to create these protective shields, encouraging us to cradle and respect our green environment.

Change to rules for dogs on the beach

THE issue of dogs on the beach is certainly generating a lot of debate in the town lately. Restrictions are in place to help control dogs on certain parts of the seafront and beaches and these are directed by Dorset Council.

As a town council, we have no say in these restrictions but can give our opinion when it comes to reviewing the rules. We also have two enforcement officers who are authorised by Dorset Council to implement the rules.

The level of debate has increased recently as Dorset Council has been consulting on the dog-related Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), which will come into effect in 2021 and will replace existing controls across the council’s area into one consolidated order.

The consultation generated a lot of interest, with 8,600 responses in total and responses from 25 town and parish councils.

In Lyme Regis, 1,175 of us responded and Dorset Council said there was ‘significant support received for an exclusion period’.

The current restrictions mean dogs are excluded from Front Beach between 1 May and 30 September each year, but they may be exercised off-lead at all other times.

We were one of the 25 town and parish councils who responded and we asked for dogs to be excluded from Front Beach all-year-round, but to continue to have unrestricted access to all other Lyme Regis beaches.

Dorset Council said the consultation showed there was no clear support for the position to change but acknowledged there had been significant complaints about dogs being off lead.

For this reason, the new restrictions from 2021 onwards have tried to find the middle ground between these two positions, which means dogs will continue to be allowed on the beach between 1 October and 30 April, but they must be kept on a lead.

The new PSPO comes into effect on 1 January 2021 and our enforcement officers will be doing their best to inform people of the new rules.

Please remember our enforcement officers are just doing their job – you may not agree with the restrictions, but it is their duty to educate people and raise awareness and if absolutely necessary, enforce the rules with a fixed penalty notice.

Grants for eight local organisations

EIGHT local organisations will receive community grants from the council to give them a boost during this difficult year.

Before coronavirus was even heard of, we invited local groups to apply for grants of up to £1,000 to purchase materials and equipment or to provide services that make Lyme Regis a better place to live, work and play.

At the end of February, we had 29 applications and faced the difficult task of allocating the £20,000 available. We never had the chance to allocate the grants but we were determined our local organisations shouldn’t miss out on the funding this year.

We decided we would consider the applications, providing the project, activity or event was still going ahead. Unfortunately, with many groups unable to operate since March and events cancelled, this meant we were left with only eight applications to consider.

However, with more money available than the total amount requested, we have been able to provide funding to all eight organisations.

The 1st Lym Valley Scout Group will spend £499 on archery equipment, an organisation called bthechange will spend £1,000 to deliver a crime consequences and anti-social behaviour programme at Woodroffe School, and Dorset Youth Association will use £300 funding to deliver support services at The Hub.

Awards of £1,000 each were made to Lyme Regis Junior Parkrun to help launch the event in the town, to Lyme Regis Majorettes to replace the music equipment in their trailer, and to Lyme Regis RC Church to help with the restoration and repair of the church’s stonework.

The Town Mill Trust will use its £500 to launch a new exhibition, ‘Grain to Loaf’, while Plastic Free Lyme Regis will continue education and awareness raising of environmental matters with an award of £500.

It was a shame so many organisations had to withdraw their applications because they hadn’t been able to operate this year, but we’re sure plans are already being made for 2021 and we’ll be inundated with applications again next year.

Parking permits to remain valid

IN case you missed it – residents’ concessionary parking permits will be valid for another year.

We issue free permits to Lyme Regis residents to park at Monmouth Beach, Cabanya and Woodmead car parks at various times of the year.

We would normally renew the annual permit each November but as the office is currently closed, the permits will be valid for one more year.

If you don’t already have a permit or you’ve changed your vehicle, contact us on enquiries@lymeregistowncouncil.gov.uk or 01297 445175 to obtain a new permit.

You will need to provide proof of a Lyme Regis address and the vehicle’s registration document bearing the same address.

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