CONCERNS have been raised that Lyme Regis could face chaos on the roads if the park and ride facility does not open this summer.
The park and ride in Charmouth Road, operated by Lyme Regis Town Council, did not open last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial effect this would have on running the service.
Discussions are now underway about the potential cost, financial and physical risks associated with running the service this year.
Deputy town clerk Mark Green told councillors this week that it was a “very complicated” issue that depended on a number of factors outside the council’s control.
For example, he said the council needed to consider whether the public would be willing to travel on a packed double-decker bus following the pandemic, even if all social distancing restrictions are lifted as planned on June 21, adding: “I suspect not.”
In a report to councillors, Mr Green and operations manager Matt Adamson Drage said it was the officers’ view that the park and ride service was “unlikely to be realistic and financially viable in 2021, other than during the school summer holiday”.
However, Mr Green said that even during the school summer holiday the service may run at a loss and this would be a loss to the council – not the bus operator.
The report added: “Even that view could be significantly altered by events entirely beyond the control of this council and subject to sudden and unexpected change.
“If a decision is made to run the service at some point, the previously agreed temporary signage can be put in place at relatively short notice.
“More problematic is putting in place bus and driver capacity and obtaining the necessary permissions from the Traffic Commissioners.
“Landowner consent will also be required to operate some changed arrangement for part-year only.”
The officers said they had hoped to bring a more detailed report to this week’s virtual meeting of the Town Management & Highways Committee, but the potential financial implications of any decision would run into the tens of thousands and more time was required to model all of the various options and scenarios.
With international travel still restricted, Lyme Regis is expecting a particularly busy summer, and a lack of park and ride facility could lead to more congestion and parking problems.
Public will be ‘appalled’ with no park and ride
Mr Green said councillors needed to consider whether keeping some cars out of the town centre was a big enough benefit, even if it came at a financial cost to the council.
Cllr Stan Williams said: “I don’t understand why we’re being too concerned about this. I think that Lyme’s going to be very busy this summer and if we don’t have any parking they’re all going to be driving around in circles with nowhere to park.
“I would just go for it, it will work this year I am very certain. If we don’t open it, people are going to be appalled.”
Cllr Williams expressed concerns that Lyme Regis was going to have “less parking that we’ve ever had” this summer, as he did not believe the private field behind St Andrew’s House would be opened for parking.
Lyme Regis Football Club will also not be allowing parking on its pitch as usual, having carried out recent improvements, but will be taking cars in its enlarged car park.
In the meantime, Dorset Council is set to quadruple its all-day charge from £2 to £8 in its Lyme Regis car parks – including Holmbush and Charmouth Road – from April 1 which some say will push more visitors to park on residential roads.
Cllr Williams said the town would be “really short on parking spaces” and suggested that, in the worst case scenario, the park and ride field could be opened as a ‘park and walk’ with no bus.
Councillors will be making a final decision on the park and ride at the next Strategy & Finance Committee meeting on March 31.
The town council no longer operates a park and ride service from the other side of town in Sidmouth Road, as planning permission for continued use of this site was refused in May 2018.