THE Sidmouth Road park and ride planning application has resulted in an acrimonious dispute between Lyme Regis and Uplyme councils.
Uplyme parish councillors have accused their Lyme Regis counterparts of “misrepresenting” what has happened in the run-up to a planning application being submitted for continued use of land off Sidmouth Road as a park and ride.
Lyme Regis Town Council submitted a planning application for the park and ride facility in March to East Devon District Council, as the land lies just across the county border in Uplyme.
This was the sixth application for temporary use of the land, requesting permission to use it as a park and ride up until the end of September 2018, despite planning officers at East Devon previously advising that no further temporary applications should be submitted and that the town council should instead apply for permanent use of the land and should submit a full traffic survey.
Uplyme Parish Council said that, while they wanted to support the application for the traders and public of Lyme Regis, they had no option but to recommend refusal of the application because Lyme Regis had overlooked the support and advice offered by East Devon and the town council had shown disregard to comply with their requirements.
They also expressed disappointment that there had been no collaboration from Lyme Regis Town Council, and said they were surprised that an application was being sought before a traffic management plan was put in place.
Speaking at a recent meeting, Lyme Regis councillor Steve Miller said that they had been working “extremely closely” with East Devon District Council, which had actually requested that another temporary application be submitted to allow time for the full traffic survey to be carried out.
He expressed disappointment that Uplyme Parish Council had recommended refusal of the application following advice from East Devon district councillor Ian Thomas, who has argued that Lyme Regis has “made no material progress” since previous applications for temporary use of the side and has “failed to address the requirements” set out by the district council.
Councillor Miller also said that the town council had been in consultation with all relevant parties but had not met with Councillor Thomas recently, as he had been unable to attend a number of suggested meetings.
‘Total and utter falsehood’
Speaking at this week’s Uplyme Parish Council meeting, chairman Chris James said that the implication that his members had only listened to Councillor Thomas’ comments was “a total and utter falsehood”.
He argued that his planning committee had “followed planning guidelines which Lyme Regis Town Council has not”.
Councillor James said that he had met with Councillor Miller and the deputy town clerk of Lyme Regis last year to discuss the park and ride.
“We told them we would give them every support if they followed what East Devon District Council advised them to do,” he added.
Arguing against Councillor Miller’s comments that a number of dates for meetings had been suggested, Uplyme councillor Andrew Turner said only one date had been put forward which several parish council members and Councillor Thomas could not make.
Councillor James added: “We have always been willing to work with them and are still willing to work with them, but we have to be given the chance to meet them.
“It does not help when certain people misrepresent what has happened.”
Uplyme councillor Colin Pratt commented: “We were told last year quite clearly that they would not be allowed another temporary application. What do they put in? Another temporary application. There was no way we could pass it.”
Referring to the late submission of the application, just before the Easter holidays, he added: “Why did they come to our March planning meeting when they wanted to open it in March?”
Councillor James said that Lyme Regis Town Council had been given clear advice and had had four years to resolve the issues surrounding the park and ride.
“What more can we do?” he asked.
Councillor Turner added: “I just feel sorry for the traders of Lyme Regis.”
The planning application for temporary use of the land off Sidmouth Road as a park and ride is now under consideration by East Devon District Council and can be viewed online at https://bit.ly/2EFI6uL
Meanwhile, planning permission for extended use of the Charmouth Road park and ride site has been received but the facility is currently not being used as the ground is too wet.
Park and ride timeline: 14 years in planning
West Dorset District Council applied for temporary use of the land as a park and ride facility while Holmbush car park was used as a compound for Phase II of the coastal protection works along the seafront and in the gardens. In November 2004, permission was granted to use the land up until December 31 2009.
The park and ride first opened in 2005 and, although the coastal protection works finished in 2007, the facility continued to operate to improve traffic and parking problems in the town.
Lyme Regis Town Council submitted its first application to continue using the land for a park and ride facility for a temporary period.
Uplyme Parish Council supported the application and East Devon granted retrospective permission in July, as the town council was actually already using the land for a park and ride, on the condition that the land be restored to its former condition on or before September 30 2014.
Lyme Regis Town Council applied for continuation of the temporary consent for a park and ride on the Sidmouth Road site.
Uplyme Parish Council objected to the application, saying there was no justification for it now that car parking spaces at Holmbush had been restored. The parish council also argued that the site was not well used, was open at limited and unpredictable times, its entrance had poor visibility and the site was an “unwanted visual intrusion” in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
East Devon district councillor Ian Thomas suggested a one-year extension to the existing permission and establishing a cross-border group of local councillors with the aim of developing a shared vision for parking arrangements agreed by both communities.
In April 2015, East Devon granted permission for continued use of the site until September 30 2016. However, it said that further temporary applications were unlikely to be supported and there was a need for a comprehensive and evidence-based strategy for car parking in Lyme Regis.
Hallam Land Management applied for planning permission for up to 120 residential dewellings plus a care home and a retained and improved park and ride facility on land off Sidmouth Road.
This application was completely separate to the town council’s park and ride applications. It was met with strong opposition from neighbouring residents and Uplyme Parish Council and was refused by East Devon in August 2015.
Lyme Regis Town Council applied for a variation to the permission granted in April 2015 to allow it to continue using the land as a park and ride for a further three years.
Uplyme Parish Council did not object, subject to the park and ride remaining temporary and not setting a precedent to becoming a brownfield site. Councillor Ian Thomas said a further extension of the existing temporary consent was “inappropriate” following the previous advice from the district council, and the town council should instead seek permanent consent.
East Devon refused the application, saying that the town council had not submitted satisfactory information regarding existing car parking usage and capacity.
Lyme Regis Town Council applied for permanent retention of a seasonal park and ride facility at Sidmouth Road. East Devon planning officers advised that the application be refused on the grounds that the town council did not submit a strategic traffic management plan, as previous requested.
However, because of concerns about the immediate implication the refusal would have on Lyme Regis traders and visitors, it was agreed to grant a further temporary consent for the park and ride up until September 10 2017, providing an opportunity to collect comprehensive traffic movement and parking figures, and for a working group of representatives from all interested authorities to develop a strategic approach to the management of traffic and parking in Lyme Regis and surrounding areas.
Despite this temporary consent being granted, the park and ride did not operate during the summer of 2017, except on Red Arrows day, as the bus operator pulled out at the last minute.
The latest application for temporary consent to continue operating the park and ride was submitted to East Devon by Lyme Regis Town Council, with many questioning why it was left until the week before the Easter holidays.
Uplyme Parish Council and Councillor Ian Thomas have both recommended refusal of the application, arguing that Lyme Regis Town Council has failed to meet the requirements set out by East Devon. However, town councillor Steve Miller has said that the district council had requested Lyme submit another temporary application to allow them time to complete a full traffic survey.
East Devon District Council has yet to make a decision on the application.