THE annual dredging and beach re-profiling works got underway this week in Lyme Regis, but there has been some complaints that the disruption has coincided with the Easter holidays and reopening of outdoor hospitality.
The town has been busy this week with children off school and families keen to make the most of eased lockdown restrictions, which have allowed self-contained holiday accommodation and outdoor hospitality areas to reopen.
But a section of the beach has been cordoned off to allow for the harbour to be dredged, with black water currently being pumped across the sand. Mounds of sand have also been piled directly next to the outdoor dining areas of some seafront restaurants.
Complaints have been raised by local traders this week, who fear the beach works will drive visitors away just as the town is reopening after lockdown.
Addressing Dorset Council this week, Kathyrn Haskins, director of the Alexandra Hotel and Restaurant in Lyme Regis, said: “Why does Dorset Council find it necessary to re-profile Lyme Regis’ main beach during what we all hope will be a busy tourist period?
“The beach was closed for days on end in June last year whilst re-profiling and dredging was undertaken; the dredging saw sand being pumped by huge machinery for weeks on end and making the beach very uninviting for all.
“This wasn’t an unprecedented occurrence as the year before this was done over the main May Bank Holiday period causing the beach to be closed over the bank holiday in that year.
“This has been brought up with your officers and their response is that they will try and avoid Bank Holidays when the beach profiling is undertaken but that it is sometimes unavoidable. But I would ask why is it unavoidable? Surely with forward planning this could be avoided.
“On the hotel and self-catering accommodation side of things the impact is huge and businesses struggling to survive it is highly important that extra obstacles are avoided at all costs.
“The repercussions on us as operators are great with guests avoiding visiting or requesting discounts due to the feeling they have been unable to enjoy their holiday as planned.
“For those operating on Marine Parade this must also have a drastic impact on footfall and thus revenues.”
A similar question to Thursday evening’s Dorset Council meeting was asked by Ben Matthews, managing director of Lyme Bay Holidays.
Environment portfolio holder for Dorset Council, Cllr Ray Bryan, said that the beach re-profiling works were organised so that at least some of the area can remain open at all times.
He told councillors that weather and tidal conditions and the availability of contractors meant it was often difficult to arrange the works when the council would like it done – despite planning well in advance.
“Technical issues and weather conditions may disrupt schedules, but our intention is always to avoid holiday periods where possible. Last year’s schedule was impacted heavily by COVID resulting in the works being done much later than normal,” said Cllr Bryan.
Dorset Council has said that the work is likely to take 10 days, subject to weather, and residents and visitors should keep away from the discharge pipe that is depositing sand on the beach.
The council said this work is essential for maintaining the day-to-day running of the harbour, and ensures the beaches are fully replenished for residents and visitors to enjoy in the warmer months.
In previous years, concerns have been raised about the black-coloured water pumped across the sand.
Dorset Council has previously explained that this will not affect the water quality, adding: “The material being deposited on the beach is predominantly sand with a small amount of organic matter.
“Material that has not been exposed to the air for a period of time can be dark in colour but once it has been washed or moved around by wave action it becomes lighter in colour.”
By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins and Francesca Evans