THE Mayor of Lyme Regis has described the relationship between the town council and new Dorset Council as “broken”, in light of an ongoing dispute over land at Monmouth Beach.
The town council has expressed concerns that an area of its land adjacent to the newly-extended harbourmaster’s office has been taken over for additional boat storage and car parking, with a wooden storage facility also built alongside the Cobb wall.
The land is owned by the town council and members have expressed frustration with Dorset Council’s lack of response to their complaints.
Giving an update at this week’s Strategy & Finance Committee meeting, town clerk John Wright said he had met with Dorset Council’s head of environment and wellbeing, Ken Buchan, and new harbourmaster James Radcliffe, to discuss the assets that the town council holds around the Monmouth Beach area, the assets that Dorset Council uses on a lease arrangement from the town council, and the issue of the accreted land.
He also drew their attention to the fact that the wooden storage facility had been built without the town council’s permission and expressed concerns it could cause damage in a severe storm, as its height exceeded that of the Cobb, which is part of the coastal defences.
Mr Wright said he would continue to chase up Dorset Council and reiterate the town council’s position.
“It will be made absolutely clear where this council stands, that we do have an interest in this land and we do have an ability to do things because, at the end of the day, we are the freeholder,” he added.
Councillor Stan Williams said he was very unhappy about the current situation and had hoped for more action after the town council expressed such strong views about it in a recent working group meeting.
He described Monmouth Beach as the town’s “goldmine” but said Dorset Council were making thousands of pounds out of the town council’s land by sub-letting it out for car parking and boat storage.
“Our job as councillors, very plainly, is to do what is in the best interests for our council tax payers. They have made a fortune, many thousands of pounds, out of our land,” he said.
The town clerk replied: “If you feel you are not getting adequate responses from Dorset Council there are other things we can do because we own sections of that land.
“I think we’re some way away from that but we could get to the point where we’re frustrated as an organisation by the responses from Dorset Council and we can begin to take matters into our own hands, which we would do with legal advice.”
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, said he was very concerned about the accreted land, adding: “The longer it stays like it is, the more permanent it becomes. I think we’ve got to put our foot on the gas on this one.”
Mr Wright said: “This is quite a sensitive issue with significant ramifications. If you want to instruct me tonight I can just serve notice on Dorset Council. I think we’d end up in a bit of a mess if that’s what happens.
“We have got to do this carefully, we have got to think about what kind of relationship we want with Dorset Council because our actions would determine that relationship. If we start serving notice on parcels of land we own around the town, that relationship will deteriorate quite quickly.”
The mayor replied: “I think that relationship is already broken because they’re not paying us due respect and I think our patience has been pretty well demonstrated.”
Councillor Michaela Ellis suggested asking Dorset councillor Daryl Turner, who represents Lyme Regis, for his support on the matter but the town clerk said he had already been informed about the situation.
It was agreed to hold another working group meeting – which are closed to the press and public – to make a decision on the matter, preferably with a representative from Dorset Council present.