LYME Regis Town Council has agreed to scrap any future plans to continue using the Sidmouth Road park and ride site.
The land off Sidmouth Road, just across the county border in East Devon, was first used as a park and ride in 2005 to make up for spaces lost in town centre car parks while the coastal protection works were being carried out.
When the works were finished, the town council continued to operate the park and ride until September 2016.
The site was subject to several controversial planning applications for its continued use during this period, resulting in a strained relationship between Lyme Regis Town Council and neighbouring Uplyme Parish Council.
The latest refused by East Devon District Council in May 2018 on the basis of lack of evidence submitted with the application to justify the need for the facility, and the harmful impact it would have on the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Lyme Regis Town Council then commissioned a £25,000 traffic and parking survey by engineering company Hydrock to support a future case for the park and ride.
However, having recently received the initial results of the survey, the vehicle numbers did not show that the park and ride would have any substantial benefit on Lyme Regis’ traffic issues.
‘Lyme is full up’
Councillors were asked to consider whether they wished to pursue the park and ride site any further at a recent Strategy & Finance Committee.
Councillor Graham Turner commented: “I think the park and ride at Sidmouth Road should be forgotten altogether because when the Charmouth Road one is full up and the car parks are full up, Lyme is full up.”
Councillor Michaela Ellis agreed, adding: “We do not need that park and ride. We have extended the number of spaces at Charmouth Road and we need to forget it and concentrate on those areas we can concentrate on.”
However, Councillor John Broom suggested that the council keep the site – which the council has been paying rent for despite not using the land – on the “back burner” for another year until it was clear whether they would be successful in introducing signage, as suggested in the Hydrock report, on the A35 directing traffic to use the Charmouth Road entrance to Lyme Regis, rather than coming through Uplyme.
“If we don’t get the suggested signage we will still need something to deal with traffic coming in from Devon,” he said.
Deputy town clerk Mark Green said the council was “between a rock and hard place”, as the report had not provided enough information to substantiate another planning application for the park and ride, but if they continued not to use the land they were required to carry out remedial works to return it to its former condition.
He commented: “Our planning permission has obviously expired. There was a condition of it that required remedial works to be undertaken by a certain date. We are past that date already and I think it is unlikely we will be allowed to continue and not carry out those works for another year or more.”
Councillor Ellis commented: “We have to remember why that park and ride was opened. It was because Charmouth Road car park was closed for the coastal protection works to cover all the spaces lost there.
“We were lucky enough to have it and we hoped to keep it going, but because we have extended Charmouth Road park and ride I don’t think we can keep spending money up at Sidmouth Road.”
‘Numbers don’t stack up’
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Brian Larcombe MBE, added: “I would not support the retention of the park and ride site at Sidmouth Road or another planning application for its future use. The Hydrock report says the numbers don’t stack up and we have ideas on how to make the Charmouth Road park and ride more effective, but even that isn’t full on days when you would expect it to be.
“The numbers in the Sidmouth Road park and ride were relatively small. I firmly believe that the proposed signage will make a real difference to the amount of traffic that comes through Uplyme looking for a park and ride.”
Councillor Jeff Scowen said this should be made clear to local residents, who were still regularly asking why the park and ride was not up and running and said the town council was “letting them down”.
He continued: “It’s only because people don’t have the information that it’s been proved not necessary, and certainly with the signage which is going to happen. We must let the public know because they do not understand why we’re not chasing it up and they mistakenly still feel it was useful and we need it, when we don’t.”
Councillor Larcombe added that even if the town council decided to pursue a further planning application, he thought it was unlikely East Devon would approve it. It was agreed not to pursue the Sidmouth Road park and ride any further.