LYME Regis Town Council has agreed to spend up to £21,000 of unplanned expenditure in preparation for an expected influx of visitors when lockdown restrictions are eased.
In a report presented to councillors during a virtual meeting this week, town clerk John Wright said the lack of travel options available to the public last spring saw a “different type” of visitors in Lyme Regis.
In particular, there was an increase in young adults visiting the beach and seafront, sometimes staying until the early hours of the morning.
While Mr Wright noted that the majority of visitors were “very respectful”, this influx of ‘staycation’ visitors did create some issues for the council, including public urination and defecation due to the lack of public toilet facilities, and excess rubbish and litter left on the seafront.
To resolve this issue, the council extended the opening hours of its toilets on Marine Parade and employed a staff member until the late evening to clear excess rubbish.
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, which will see some facilities opening from April 12 onwards, the council is expecting another busy spring season.
To avoid a repeat of the same issues, the council has now agreed to spend up to £21,000 to ensure there are enough facilities and resources in place to keep the seafront clean and tidy.
This includes ensuring that the Marine Parade toilets are fully serviced and manned by an attendant from its contractor Glen Cleaning, up until June 21 when all legal limits on social contact are expected to be lifted. This will cost an estimated £17,000.
A further £4,000 will be spent on staff overtime from 8pm to 11pm from April 1 to June 21 to ensure the seafront is kept clean.
Speaking at the meeting, town clerk John Wright said: “We are anticipating or trying to prepare for a really good spring and summer, lots of people visiting the town because they haven’t got other things to do and a repeat of what happened last year.”
When asked what Dorset Council’s plans were for reopening their toilets, Mr Wright said he was “not optimistic” that they would be extending opening hours as they did not last year.
Cllr Gill Stammers said: “I think this is the cautious and correct approach and is obviously based on our experience of last year. We should certainly go ahead.
“The problem with Lyme is we have very narrow pavements, people will throng the pavements and there is going to be no social distancing.
“We will just have to hope that being outdoors does was the government says it does and keeps the virus at bay or minimises the risk at least.”
Keeping Lyme a ‘clean, hygienic and pleasant place to be’
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Cllr Brian Larcombe MBE, said the “urinating and messing on the beach” seen last year was “unacceptable and disgusting”.
He added that providing sufficient toilet facilities came with the territory of being a seaside resort and was what was expected of the council.
Cllr Rob Smith added: “Nobody likes spending money but we owe it to the people of the town to make sure the place is kept clean, hygienic and pleasant place to be. We don’t really have a choice.”
The mayor continued: “If we were fortunate enough to have a Chamber of Commerce or Trade you would hope the collective tourist businesses would perhaps come to our assistance on this because it’s their businesses that are benefitting and we get nothing from the business rates to help us in this respect, which is a shame; we should get some sort of support here.
“This is our way of demonstrating that we do help Lyme’s local tourism businesses. We’re often accused of not doing enough for them but doing things like this – keeping the place tidy and opening toilets – is part of that facility and commitment we give to the employment and trading environment in Lyme Regis.”
Councillors expressed concerns about reopening seafront concessions, such as deckchair hire, hair braiding and trampolines, questioning what actions would be in place to ensure social distancing and cleaning regulations were met.
Officers said the concessions were expecting reopen as per the government guidelines. Following COVID regulations would be part of their agreements with the council and they would be regularly checked on, which had worked relatively well last year.
It was agreed to defer a decision on seafront concessions until the Town Management & Highways Committee meeting in two weeks.