ANOTHER Christmas season in Lyme Regis has flown by in the blink of an eye.
Other than a handful of event cancellations in the run-up to the big day, there thankfully was some sense of normality this year as we were able to celebrate Christmas and New Year with family and friends.
Now our thoughts turn to the year ahead of us, with many making promises of self-improvement in New Year’s Resolutions, whether it be hitting the gym or learning a new skill.
But what about setting New Year’s Resolutions for our town – what would you like to see achieved in Lyme Regis over the next 12 months?
There’s many aspirations that immediately spring to mind – subjects that are brought up time and time again in local discussion.
Will 2022 be the year when we see progress on any of them?
First up – reducing traffic congestion
Surely the longest-running complaint of Lyme Regis residents and businesses – the insufferable town centre congestion and parking problems seen during busy periods, especially over the summer.
I believe the town council’s longest-serving member Stan Williams stood for election in 1969 on the promise of tackling traffic congestion, and the newest member Caroline Aldridge mentioned it as she was co-opted in November 2021.
It seems an impossible task, but green-thinking councillor Belinda Bawden says that we will have to consider some radical ideas if we ever want to find a solution.
That brings us to…
Tackling the climate crisis
With the town council having just agreed to dedicate £75,000 over the next three years to environmental issues, this aspiration is looking a little more hopeful.
Lyme has been known to be a little ahead of the times when it comes to green issues; in fact the launch of Turn Lyme Green was one of the first events I covered as an 18-year-old trainee reporter, back in 2007 when I had never really considered the climate crisis.
But I feel now is the time to take big and brave decisions if we want to keep up with our neighbours and play our part in tackling this global emergency.
Thankfully, today’s younger generation seem far more socially-conscious than my 18-year-old self, so perhaps we should…
Involve young people more in community
No doubt provision for young people has improved in recent years, with the development of The Hub, the skatepark and the Anning Road playing field. There’s also plenty of sporting opportunities for young people in our town and the Marine Theatre and B Sharp are certainly doing their bit for those interested in the creative arts.
What I would like to see is more young people taking an interest in and being encouraged and included in community events and local democracy.
Clubs and organisations are folding due to lack of new, younger members, and our youngest ever town councillor resigned last year amid claims she was discriminated against because of her age.
This section of the community is hugely under-represented so hopefully efforts to restart a youth council in the town – put on hold during the pandemic – can be picked up again this year.
And if we want to involve young people more in our community we need to…
Provide affordable housing
This has always been an issue I’ve held close to my heart, so much so I based my final major project at university on the lack of affordable housing provision in West Dorset.
At 32, I’ve been unable to get on the housing ladder in my hometown and recently moved out of my own privately-rented flat, returning to my student days of flat-sharing with a friend so I can save more money for the future.
Most others my age left town long ago, but how will that provide for a sustainable and diverse society in years to come?
I don’t think anyone denies that more affordable housing is needed, but with Lyme’s limited remaining space for development, sadly I think this aspiration for 2022 is as hopeful as my New Year diet.
Speaking of unlikely aspirations, how about…
Bringing our historic buildings back to use?
The former Three Cups Hotel stands dominant in the centre of Broad Street with shoppers passing by every day and visitors inquisitively peering through the dusty windows.
It has stood empty for as long as I have been alive.
We all got a little bit excited when Palmers Brewery finally unveiled its scheme to redevelop the site into shops and apartments with a flagship restaurant behind.
But that was before we’d ever uttered the word coronavirus and, sadly, plans seem to have been put on the back burner with the £5million cost now likely to have spiralled.
And what about the Regent Cinema? It has now stood derelict for almost six years following the devastating fire of March 2016.
Last year the town was delighted to hear news that WTW Scott Cinemas had sold the property to a local developer with plans of keeping a cinema of some form on the site.
But the buyer still remains a mystery and there’s been no further visible developments. Will things change in 2022?
And finally, a peaceful council – please!
This shouldn’t be a big ask, in fact it shouldn’t have to be an ask at all. But in my 14 years covering Lyme Regis Town Council I haven’t often felt as uncomfortable at meetings as I did during some of the more awkward spats last year.
Let’s hope the Christmas break has given everyone a much-needed breather and councillors can put aside their personal differences for the good of the town.
So what are your New Year’s resolutions for Lyme Regis? I’m sure our readers can come up with some far more imaginative examples than me. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org for a special readers’ letters special in the next issue of the LymeOnline newspaper.