ORGANISERS of events on Lyme Regis seafront could be asked to pay a deposit of at least £500 in future, to ensure they comply with conditions set by the town council.
Councillors are considering introducing a deposit scheme following a number of issues caused by major events held on the seafront last year, including rubbish being left behind and drivers refusing to move their vehicles off Marine Parade.
In June 2018, the council caused outrage after suggesting that events and festivals should be banned during the peak season and Bank Holiday weekends, when it was argued that the town was already busy enough.
After considering the views of residents and event organisers, it was agreed not to go ahead with this proposal and a new events policy was introduced instead, outlining a number of conditions regarding waste and vehicle management.
Speaking at a recent Strategy & Finance Committee meeting, George Symonds, owner of the Amusement Arcade on Marine Parade, asked councillors to consider introducing a deposit scheme to ensure event organisers comply with these conditions.
He commented: “Some of the organisations at last year’s events left rubbish, dismantled stands in the middle of the day and, on a busy Sunday, turned Marine Parade into a car park, all while there were still families trying to walk along it.
“Some of the event organisers have been a complete nuisance and have a total disregard for any permanent businesses, blocking entrances and the council’s own toilets.”
He also suggested that no vehicles should be allowed on Marine Parade between 9am and 6pm, rather that the current rule of 10am and 4pm, and a one-way system to get vehicles off the seafront should be implemented for events.
Town clerk John Wright’s report on the matter said that a deposit would have to be a minimum of £500 to have any meaningful effect, but this might deter some organisations from hosting events on the seafront.
Councillor Brian Larcombe argued that a deposit would not detract people from hosting events.
He commented: “Let’s be very clear, if they comply with the things we require of them, they will get their deposit back, there won’t be any deterrent. The only people who will have a problem with this are the people who are likely to leave it in a way we wouldn’t like them to leave it, or cause potential damage and cause obstruction.”
Councillor Stan Williams added: “We seem to have lost control on the seafront. All events on the seafront and in the gardens should only be held by local organisations, particularly charities, so all proceeds remain in the town for the benefit of the council taxpayers. “I think it’s appalling down there, we really need to sort things out.”
‘Silly not to encourage events’
Councillor Cheryl Reynolds, chairman of the town’s Tourism, Community and Publicity Committee, agreed that the council needed to enforce its vehicle restrictions and introduce a one-way system, but she said it would be “silly” not to encourage events.
“We don’t want to put people off because the good thing about events is that they draw people in, and they spend money in the cafes and restaurants as well,” she said.
“If we dissuade events from coming we’ll be cutting off our nose to spite our face. You go to any other town, they have events all the time and we’d be silly not to encourage that.”
Councillor Richard Doney said he was concerned about the practicalities of introducing a deposit scheme, especially for small, local organisations that regularly held fundraisers on the seafront.
He said the idea could cause a lot of arguments and he would prefer to see the council enforce its existing policies to try and solve problems before looking at a deposit scheme.
Councillor John Broom, chairman of the Town Management Committee, commented: “You do get problems, what George says is true, you get people who won’t move their vehicles. You have to control that in some way and I think the only way to control it is say, ‘I’m sorry, but you lose your deposit’.”
However, Councillor Broom admitted that a deposit scheme would open up a “huge minefield” and he did not know how the council could make it fair for everyone.
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said: “My biggest concern is for the small organisations that hold events there. I went down last year and held a stall for my mayor’s charity. Where would I find £500 for my mayor’s charity to put down as a deposit? There’s a lot of organisations that wouldn’t be able to put £500 down before the event.”
Councillor Larcombe said it was “nonsense” to believe a deposit would put anyone off hosting a seafront event.
He added: “If you don’t damage it and you comply, it’s not a dissuasion because you’re going to get your money back. Let’s not be overly concerned about that.
“What does it mean for small organisations? If it’s £500 they only have to raise it once because they’re going to get it back, it’s the same £500 every year.”
He then proposed introducing a deposit of £1,000 for all events but his suggestion did not win support.
Councillor Jeff Scowen commented: “There isn’t a one size fits all, if we apply the deposit to everyone it’s just not fair. I don’t see a problem with the bigger organisations putting up £500 but we also need to look at better policing of events.”
If the scheme was to be introduced, the town clerk emphasised the importance of councillors taking some responsibility for decisions regarding event organisers losing deposits or not being able to host their events again, rather than leaving it to council officers and staff, who he said would be “crucified” for imposing such sanctions.
“There will be, I can absolutely assure you, a lot of pain here,” he added.
Councillors agreed they would discuss the matter further at a future committee meeting, considering how a deposit scheme would be fair to both large, commercial organisations and small, non-profit events.
Any new policies would not come into effect until 2020.