Council make u-turn on lifeguard hut decision

The proposed lifeguard hut would be raised above the sand

THE town council has made a u-turn on its previous decision to refuse permission for an improved lifeguard hut to be installed on Lyme Regis beach.

The council previously turned down a request from the RNLI to install a new lifeguard hut, which would be raised above ground level, on the sandy beach during summer. The RNLI said this would give lifeguards an improved view of people in the sea but councillors expressed concerns it would take up too much space and was unattractive.

Following their decision, a petition was launched by boat owner and keen fisherman Ryan Turner, which he presented to the council after receiving 750 signatures in a couple of weeks.

When asking the public to sign his petition, Mr Turner said: “I cannot believe they have refused an improved lifeguard station on the basis of it looking ugly and some beaches don’t have one at all so ours is fine.

“You have the chance to improve safety and you’re choosing not to take it. Like I said before, those councillors can go and tell the family if the unthinkable happens to a child.”

Having received the petition, the council agreed to meet with RNLI safety officers to discuss the benefits of the improved hut in further detail.

At last week’s meeting, deputy town clerk Mark Green presented a report giving more details on the raised hut and its benefits to councillors. It was reported that lifeguards currently had to jump up and down on the beach wall to try and see what was happening in the water, and that visibility beyond the groyne on the sandy beach was “very difficult in any event”.

Only town to turn down hut

Simon Crayford, area lifesaving manager for the RNLI, also spoke about the benefits during the public forum at the meeting, pointing out that the old ground-level hut was no longer made and Lyme Regis was so far the only place that had turned down the new-look hut.

Councillor Patrick Ridley, who operates Lyme Bay Rib Rides from the harbour, said he encountered the problem of swimmers in the harbour mouth almost everyday, describing it as an “accident waiting to happen”. He said the raised hut would give lifeguards a better view of this and help them prevent the problem.

He added that the decision to refuse the new hut had made the council “look very, very bad”.

Councillor Jeff Scowen also spoke in favour of the hut, emphasising that Lyme Regis would be the only town to turn it down if councillors did not reverse their decision.

Councillor John Broom said he attended the meeting with the RNLI safety officers and they strongly felt that the raised hut was necessary to safely look over the amount of people that used the sandy beach.

However, Councillor Stan Williams said he thought people had “gone over the top with this”, pointing out that the council was not against the lifeguard service. He said he did not understand why the hut had to be on such a large platform.

“The beach is already overcrowded,” he added.

Some councillors were also concerned over the procedural matter of reversing their decision. Council decisions are not allowed to be reversed within six months of them being made unless a rescinding motion is signed by six or more councillors.

However, town clerk John Wright advised members that they had been presented with enough new information on the matter that it could be considered a new consideration.

It was agreed to allow the new, raised lifeguard hut to be installed for the coming summer season with nine councillors voting in favour and three abstaining.

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