OWNERS of Lyme Regis’ most historic bed and breakfast have called for the town council to reconsider the “unsustainable” cost of parking permits for their visitors.
Sandra Johnson and Susan Walker, who own the Old Lyme Guest House in Coombe Street, recently made an impassioned plea to the council to re-think the continually-rising cost of parking permits at Woodmead car park, which they say will “price them out of business”.
Several accommodation owners purchase parking permits for their guests from Lyme Regis Town Council, but the cost of an annual permit for Woodmead car park has increased from £500 to £650 since Sandra and Susan took over the bed and breakfast three years ago.
Sandra and Susan have to buy individual permits for each room at their four-star bed and breakfast, but they told councillors they are currently only operating four out of five bedrooms because they could not afford a fifth permit.
Speaking at a recent council meeting, Sandra commented: “Since moving to Lyme Regis three years ago the cost of an individual permit has risen from £500 per permit per room to £650. This huge increase is simply not sustainable for a small, sole trader such as ourselves.
“In our first year, we were advised to add the cost to the price of our rooms. This we did, however, as the permits have increased by £150 over three years we simply cannot sustain that charge as an additional cost for each room. The consequence of doing so would price us as a bed and breakfast out of the market and decrease our bookings, therefore putting us out of business. Nor do we think this is fair to visitors to our town.
“As an ex-local authority employee I cannot understand why Lyme Regis Town Council feels the need to keep increasing the cost of parking permits, specifically for Woodmead car park, when the council has a reserve budget of £1.4million.”
Sandra asked whether some of the council’s reserves could be used to “help small businesses stay in business” by reversing the charges, or if the council could consider a more flexible purchase scheme for the permits, which currently all have to be bought in March, so the cost could be distributed across the year.
Susan added: “In the three years that we have been here nobody on the council has ever approached us, discussed with us or asked us any questions about how such an increase would affect our business. Is it not the job of our local councillors to work for the people of Lyme Regis and help small businesses like ours to thrive, to encourage tourism?
“When we heard that the town council reserve was in excess of £1.6million in January and £1.4million to date, we were shocked, upset and appalled. It would be fair to say, I believe, based on these figures that Lyme Regis is wealthy town council.
“How could anyone have thought the increase in cost of those permits by 30 per cent was fair? In my opinion it was nothing short of greed and it was unnecessary.
“I realise that probably none of the council members would have experienced or have to experience anything like this, and therefore would never have to feel the impact, so it becomes so much easier not to care. And yet, you should care and try to help as many people in Lyme Regis as possible.
“We cannot sustain this business with this current way of thinking.”
Speaking to LymeOnline after the meeting, the B&B owners said that the “extortionate price” of permits came on top of already expensive business rates, commercial waste charges and increased competition from Airbnb properties, which did not have to pay out the same costs.
Sandra and Susan said that most councillors they had spoken to were under the impression that they only had to buy one permit for the whole property, but it was actually one permit per room.
They added that they would now be taking the matter up with the new mayor.