Consultation to shape management of Lyme Regis harbour

lyme regis harbour
Lyme Regis harbour (photo by Glenn Patrick)

DORSET Council is developing a strategy to guide the development of the three harbours under their management over the next ten years, including in Lyme Regis.

The Dorset Coast Forum (DCF) has been working with Dorset Council Harbours Committee to develop this new strategy for Weymouth, Bridport and Lyme Regis harbours, which will unify them under Dorset Council management while recognising their unique qualities.

As part of this work, DCF carried out a public consultation in September and October 2020 to gain community input and help build a strategy that is supported by the communities and key stakeholders.

A report on the feedback received has now been released, revealing five main aspects of the harbours that were important to respondents:

  • Culture and heritage
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Marine safety and enforcement
  • Conservation and ecology
  • Economy/business growth/regeneration

The report continues: “Dorset Council’s three harbours, Weymouth, Bridport and Lyme Regis, all have unique communities but have many of the same issues and barriers to development such as limited space for development and restricted access.

“However, the range of opportunities for each harbour varies due to spatial considerations, available infrastructure improvements and the desires of the community.”

Referring specifically to Lyme Regis harbour, the report said: “At Lyme Regis, similarly to Bridport, the management approach was generally praised. However, the same concerns about staffing levels were raised, especially during peak seasons and about the capacity of staff to enforce safety when covering both harbours.

“Respondents valued the mix of activities at the harbour and facilities were thought as adequate but could do with some improvements.

“Ideas for development at Lyme Regis harbour included improving the ageing infrastructure to make it more resilient to climate change, improving facilities, moorings and pontoons and centring the community in any future developments.

“There was a proportion of respondents who felt that there was not scope for change or were happy with the status quo.”

The report summarised responses to four key questions about Lyme Regis harbour as follows:

How would you best describe the harbour?

Lyme Regis harbour is best described as a mixture of working and tourist harbour, friendly and traditional and not over commercialised. A good blend of fishing boats, leisure craft, local businesses and tourist attractions like the Cobb. The harbour is a rich in history and culture with a good location.

What works well?

The harbour master and assistant are friendly and supportive, and the management works well. The blend of commercial and leisure boats works well, as do the slipways, pontoons and access to the sea. There is a general satisfaction with the existing facilities with minor improvements but infrastructure improvements that could be made.

What does not work well?

There was concern that some boats entered the swimming areas and it was suggested to have defined areas for water sport activities. Currently, personal watercraft (jet skis, etc.) are not allowed to launch from the harbour and there was a mixed opinion as to whether this should be allowed to happen.

In busy periods there were concerns about the congregation of pedestrians on slipways. Traffic management, signage and vehicle access requires improvement. Access to pontoons can be difficult at times.

Maintenance and usage of buildings on the Cobb was highlighted as something that needs to be improved. There are not enough power outlets during busy periods. The ageing infrastructure needs to be addressed.

Ideas and development opportunities

Workshop attendees highlighted that infrastructure repairs are vital with flood defences needing to be considered with rising sea levels. It was felt that the Cobb and harbour was one of the most valuable places in the town.

Community events could be capitalised on and improved alongside implementing infrastructure that could attract people, e.g. underwater lights in the harbour and make better use of seasonality to attract visitors at less busy times.

It was suggested to look at opportunities for the personal watercraft users to launch by ensuring responsible practices and codes for registered owners to comply with. It was also raised to make better use of the Cobb buildings and promote businesses and facilities there but ensure heritage is kept.

The consultation took place through online workshops and surveys with harbour users, to seek views on what people think works well and what doesn’t work so well in regards to the management of the harbours, and also to gather ideas for how the harbours should develop over the next 10 years.

The Dorset Coast Forum and Dorset Council Harbours Committee have used this feedback, and other supporting information and documents, to form the basis of the strategy.

They are currently working with key stakeholders to ensure the direction of the strategy is supported and will be going back out to consultation with the wider public on this draft strategy in summer 2021.

Cllr Mark Roberts, chairman of the Dorset Council Harbours Committee, said: “Thank you to all those who contributed to the first stage of consultation – we received 530 responses.

“It’s important we consult with harbour users and then the wider community to develop the Dorset Harbours Strategy to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to air their views.

“We are working hard to ensure this strategy reflects the needs and aspirations of our community and will set out our vision for the future that is strongly supported.”

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, added: “Dorset Council continue to be committed to working with our communities to ensure they have a say on how our harbours are managed and are a place that they are proud to use for work or leisure.

“This new strategy will set out how our harbours can thrive, now, and in the future.”

For further information on the Dorset Harbours Strategy visit  

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