LYME Regis councillors will meet with a RNLI safety officer to discuss their controversial decision to oppose the erection of a new larger lifeguard hut on stilts on the main beach.
The decision – made by the full council – to oppose the new construction because it was “ugly and unnecessary” was met with a barrage of complaints on social media, prompting local resident Ryan Turner to launch a petition urging the council to change its mind.
Mr Turner attended tonight’s meeting of the Town Management Committee and made an eloquent plea for the council to reconsider its decision. He said the on-line edition had received 750 signatures in a couple of weeks, 360 of them coming from the Lyme Regis Noticeboard Facebook page.
He pointed out that lifeguards not only looked after savings lives but also acted as first-aiders on the beach and to deal with lost children.
Referring to the council’s concerns about the lifeguard hut being on stilts, he suggested that local schoolchildren could be asked to help make the construction “look pretty”and perhaps get instruction on the beach in safety at sea.
Mr Turner said he understood the council’s concerns, adding: “I am not here to say anyone was wrong.” But he stressed that none of the petitioners agreed with the council, everyone was against the decision.
He added: “There are a lot of ugly things in Lyme. We have this facility and we should use it. If it saves one person’s life in the next 20 years, it will be worth it.”
Councillor Cheryl Reynolds said she had been “digging around” and had found there was a similar problem at Newport in Wales but they had located a smaller hut. She stressed the council was not against the lifeguard hut, it was just the size of it.
She said: “Ryan’s petition is fine but I think we should look into this more carefully.”
Committee chairman John Broom thanked Mr Turner for the petition, adding “We do appreciate it. We are not perfect.”
Town clerk John Wright said Nigel Jones, RNLI area life safety manager, had asked if he could meet council leaders to discuss the situation.
Jeff Scowen, the council’s representative on the Lyme Regis & Charmouth RNLI Guild, said he had been persuaded to vote against the new lifeguard hut by the views of other councillors but he had now changed his mind.
He warned against the “peril” of going against the RNLI and thought they could now prove they were “a caring council”.
He said: “They are the safety experts and I urge caution to putting the aesthetics of our beautiful beach before safety.”
The Mayor, Cllr Michaela Ellis, pointed out the council was never against the lifeguard hut, only the size of the new version, but the petition did not make this clear. She was concerned about children running into the stilts but she thought they should talk to Mr Jones.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Miller said it was a very emotive subject. It was a very small beach and the solution had to be proportional to that risk. He hoped that by talking to the RNLI safety manager they could mitigate that risk.
It was agreed that the mayor and Councillor Broom would meet with Mr Jones before reconsidering their opposition with Cllr Scowen the only councillor voting against this proposition.