By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins
CALLS to reverse changes to Dorset car parking charges is to be made by a group of councillors.
The controversial proposals, which will see all-day charges at Holmbush and Charmouth Road car parks in Lyme Regis doubled, were not discussed by councillors at all because they were said to be an ‘operational’ matter.
The changes are set to be introduced in the New Year and also include extending the charging period to 8pm across Dorset Council car parks, which many businesses have complained would hit town centre bars and restaurants at a time when they are struggling to survive.
A motion is now being proposed by Lib Dem group leader Cllr Nick Ireland for the next full council meeting on December 10, with support from 15 councillors.
The motion asks for a reversal of the decision made by Highways, Travel and Environment portfolio holder Cllr Ray Bryan on October 16 but says it would welcome the inclusion of the proposals into a wider review on the council’s policy for parking due in early 2021.
The most recent statement on the issue from Dorset Council said that the decision would not be re-considered.
One opposition councillor is currently challenging the legal basis for the decision claiming that it might not comply with the council’s adopted constitution.
Lyme’s representative Cllr Daryl Turner has previously said the way the decision was announced without consultation was “wholly wrong” and he called for a full report on the implications of the changes.
In Lyme Regis, the car parks affected by changes will include Holmbush, Charmouth Road, Cobb Gate and Broad Street (Van Allens). Lyme Regis Town Council-owned car parks – including Woodmead Halls, Monmouth Beach and Cabanya – remain unaffected.
Dorset Council says it has lost around £2million in parking fees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. There has been no announcement on whether car parks will remain open during the second lockdown, which comes into force on Thursday.
Consultation on shopper permits
Meanwhile, Dorset residents are being asked for their views on a new parking permit.
The permits would provide a money-saving, cash-free way to park in Dorset Council-owned car parks around the county.
Residents in the former West Dorset District Council area have been able to purchase permits for several years. All Dorset residents are now being asked if this should be extended across the Dorset Council area, or if the existing scheme should be brought to a close.
It is estimated the cost to Dorset Council for the permits would be at least £50,000 per year (administration and reduced parking revenue). However, with many town centres struggling due to COVID-19, the introduction of shopper’s permits could encourage people to visit their local towns more frequently.
Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “Western Dorset residents been able to purchase shoppers permits for several years, and we are asking people across the county if this is something they’d also like to benefit from.
“Offering residents a convenient and cost-saving way to park would encourage them to shop locally, supporting businesses and breathing life back into our high streets at a time when many shops are struggling.
“However, it could have a financial impact on the council through reduced revenue and administration charges, and we want to know how people feel about this too. Please give us your thoughts by taking part in the consultation.”
The current Shopper’s Permit is a cardboard disk which is displayed in vehicle windscreens. The new permit may be virtual where the registration number allows access for a set period in short stay car parks.
The consultation runs until midnight on December 6 2020 and is available online at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/shoppers-permit-survey
Paper copies of the survey will also e available in Dorset libraries from early November. Please phone ahead before visiting or check www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/libraries for opening times.
Shopper’s parking permit holders in the former West Dorset District Council area currently get 2 hours’ parking per day (or 3 hours if a disabled badge is also displayed), 7 days a week. At extra cost to the purchaser, the permit can be used in a second vehicle but not on the same day.
The consultation asks if shoppers would like the permit to allow them to park for more than 2 hours. If a decision is made to stop the scheme, the western Dorset permits will remain valid until their expiry date.