Have business interests been put before residents’ safety during pandemic?

Lyme Regis beach has been busy on some days during lockdown, but not to the extent of other Dorset destinations, such as Bournemouth or Durdle Door

A LYME Regis resident has said he feels the actions of the town council during lockdown have favoured tourism-related businesses over residents, who have been left “overly exposed to danger”.

At last week’s virtual full council meeting, Councillor Cheryl Reynolds read a statement on behalf of resident Adrian Robinson, who accused the council of prioritising business interests over the safety of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that, while he condemned reported acts of abuse towards second home-owners during the lockdown period, the crowds recently seen on local beaches felt like a “kick in the face” from visitors who had been asked to stay away and he also condemned second home-owners who defied government advice to stay at the primary residence.

Mr Robinson added: “The effects of these actions did a great deal to foster resentment among some local people and has led to an unresolved hiatus in relations between many locals and the visiting public.”

Mr Robinson added that social media comments referring to “NIMBYs, yokles and inbreds” had been equally unacceptable to those against visitors

Speaking about the mayor’s recent decision to post letters to holiday let owners to tell them they would be welcome in Lyme Regis again when restrictions were lifted, Mr Robinson asked why letters were not sent out earlier in lockdown asking visitors to follow guidelines and stay away.

“Dorset Council has acted in balanced way for all its voters in deterring visitors through the lockdown period,” he added.

“However, we are dismayed that the town council has solely acted in support of the often very loudly stated pecuniary interests of local businesses, not always locally owned, and has failed to recognise and address the deep concerns of local residents who do not have a direct pecuniary interest in tourism, and have feel your willingness to welcome people to share our wonderful town has been sorely abused.”

He continued: “We recognise the vital importance of the local economy. However, many residents have told us they feel their concerns have been left unaddressed and that pecuniary interests are the only concerns that gain the ear of our town council.”

Mr Robison added that the actions of the town council has left residents “overly exposed to danger” and were at a disconnect to the actions of Dorset Council and West Dorset MP Chris Loder.

Town clerk John Wright said that the they had worked very closely with Dorset Council and Mr Loder throughout lockdown and had followed government guidelines when making decisions on car parks, etc.

He added that it had been “incredibly difficult to maintain a balancing act” and they had tried to take into account the interests of both businesses and residents throughout the pandemic.

The mayor added that posting the letters to holiday let owners was a “reasonable” action in response to the alleged abuse aimed at visitors.

Woodmead Halls

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