ADDITIONAL government funding will mean that Dorset Police can appoint 50 new officers this year. That’s good news and if we can believe Boris Johnson (?), more are on the way.
So what’s the chance of one of them, or maybe two, being based in Lyme Regis? No chance at all, I would say. Whether we like it or not, Lyme Regis is considered a low-crime area, despite four very worrying incidents in this summer we will never forget.
Last year the Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill raised the police precept (the amount added to your council tax) by £24 to balance the police budget. In a survey, a majority of people in Dorset said they were happy to pay this.
Mr Underhill, who is standing down from the job at the next election, only had to ask for an increase of £10 this year due to the increase in government funding.
Lyme’s police allocation is based on our winter resident population, around 3,700. Last week, when there was a serious affray in the town centre, there were probably 25,000 people in the town.
This anomaly was the reason why our Mayor, Brian Larcombe MBE, called for extra policing in Lyme Regis. He was already taking some stick from residents, including from some of his own councillors, for appointing security guards to patrol the public gardens following complaints from residents that the disturbance was such that they could not sleep at night. The cost of the town: £10,800. It’s an initiative that seems to have worked.
The mayor also took criticism for calling for more policing; “condemned if you do, condemned if you don’t” springs to mind. That’s part of the job and is the reason why some councillors do not want to take on such responsibility, especially in these fractious days.
No one denies that being a police officer is a difficult job and no one points the figure at those who have to deal with crime throughout the county. And it is certainly not their fault that police numbers have been reduced drastically in recent years due to inadequate funding, making their job much more difficult.
But many believe that a visual presence of ‘Bobbies On The Beat’ makes people feel safer. In the current climate, however, as Mr Underhill made quite clear when he last visited Lyme Regis to talk to councillors, Lyme would never see a great police presence on a regular basis in the town.
It was slightly ironic, however, that the following day armed police officers converged on Lyme to make an arrest in Broad Street.
Policing has to be about prevention as well as protection. In my view, a visible presence is the best form of prevention.
The serious incident in Broad Street was described by one eye witness as “horrifying” and it has started a debate about the policing of our town, mainly on social media.
So is there anything the residents of Lyme can do to bring about change? We could try encouraging large numbers to withdraw their police precept but we know that not many would not wish to do that and, even if they did, it is unlikely to bring about any greater resource for such a small town.
Would it be possible for the Dorset Constabulary to increase the allocation of personnel for the summer months only when numbers of people in the town are at peak levels? And if so, could the town council afford to pay a contribution towards this or indeed would that be allowed?
That seems unlikely with the council looking very careful at their spending commitments following fears about a drastic reduction in reserves.
Once upon a time, many years ago, Lyme’s old police station in Hill Road was policed by several PCs and a sergeant. As kids we lived in fright of them, even if guilty of such minor offences as scrumping apples. But these are not the good old days. Society has changed, perhaps not for the better, but changed it has.
No doubt the town council, when things return to normal and they can meet in person rather than by Zoom, will be discussing this problem. There will soon be an election for a new Police and Crime Commissioner.
When the new appointment is made, perhaps it would be good to invite him or her to Lyme to listen to the great concern that exists in this town about whether we can stay a low-crime area.
A great attraction for all …come rain or shine
IT’S raining, you’ve got a couple of kids looking like drowned rats and they really want to be on the beach. So what do you do when it rains in Lyme Regis?
The Regent Cinema was always a favourite and then there’s the Amusement Arcade on the seafront which retains its popularity.
And if the queue in Coombe Street last Wednesday afternoon, when the heavens opened up in the first big downpour for weeks, was anything to go by, the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum is still a great favourite.
Dinosaurland is a private museum which is owned and run by palaeontologist Steve Davies and his wife Jenny. The museum contains a spectacular collection of the local Jurassic marine fossils.
The collection grows each year and is now, I am told, probably the best fossil collection on public display in South West.
On its website, it is described as “a traditional museum using the beauty and majesty of more than 12,000 specimens to show people just how exciting and wonderful the world of fossils and dinosaurs really is”.
Interest in the earth sciences has grown to an enormous level in recent years and Lyme is definitely the epicentre for all fossilers.
Situated in the old Congregational Church, a unique building, the fossil collection takes up most of the ground floor of the building. It is a spectacular collection of the local 200 million year old Jurassic marine fossils, ranging from the largest ichthyosaur through ammonites, belemnites, fish and starfish to the tiniest microfossil.
You will see the full range of what lived in the Jurassic sea in a way that might surprise you (did you know that at least 21 different types of belemnite are found in Lyme Regis?).
More exotic exhibits include real Chinese dinosaurs, Russian trilobites and a 73 kilo lump of dinosaur dung!
Upstairs, the Time Gallery introduces you to the vastness of geological time and takes you through a tour showing how the continents and life have changed with time, culminating in the monsters of the Age of the Dinosaurs.
The Natural History Room has a collection of modern shells and skeletons to show you how present day life evolved and how it is related to the dinosaurs and fossils in the museum.
Come rain, come shine, it’s a great attraction for tourists and locals alike.
Seafront in full bloom
THIS has been a most difficult year for Lyme Regis Town Council’s outdoor staff – but it hasn’t stopped them from making the town look as colourful as possible among the many COVID-19 signs that dominate the seafront.
The floral boxes on the seafront are particularly impressive, much better than the former displays which were placed on top of poles along the parade.
They are now fixed to the railings along the parade and, despite taking a bit of a battering from the strong winds this week, they really do look impressive, as do the Langmoor Gardens. Well done chaps!