DORSET Council and Lyme Regis Town Council have said they are holding “active discussions” over the future of the Tourist Information Centre.
Both authorities have said they are committed to working together to find a “sustainable outcome which will benefit the whole town”, after it was announced that the Tourist Information Centre was under threat of closure.
Dorset Council recently held a public consultation on the future of the Tourist Information Centre (TIC), saying its preferred option would be to close the facility and no longer provide a face-to-face service.
The TIC, while run by Dorset Council, currently occupies the ground floor of Guildhall Cottage in Bridge Street, which is owned by Lyme Regis Town Council.
The town council is currently intending on refurbishing the entire building and to take over the ground floor to extend its existing offices upstairs. Dorset Council was given noticed that the TIC would need to vacate the premises by spring 2020.
This was later extended until July but the facility then closed at the end of March due to the coronavirus outbreak and is currently being cleared out, although staff are still manning a phone line and displaying up-to-date local information in the windows of the building.
Dorset Council said that, as it had been given notice to vacate the premises, it was taking the opportunity to consider the future of the service. But the town council argued its decision to terminate the lease was not the whole reason behind the potential closure of the TIC.
Town clerk John Wright has previously said that the decision to terminate the lease was only made after discussions with Dorset Council, and its predecessor West Dorset District Council, over the future of the TIC broke down and Dorset Council representatives failed to attend scheduled meetings on the subject.
Dorset Council has acknowledged that it is costing approximately £87,000 a year to fund the TIC, and retaining the service as it is “not a viable option”.
In the consultation document, three options were put to the public:
- Option 1 – Close the TIC and no longer provide a face to face service. The council will continue to invest in supporting tourism through its Visit Dorset website service. This was Dorset Council’s preferred option.
- Option 2 – Close the TIC and provide a self-service capability e.g. touch screen terminal.
- Option 3 – Consider the provision through another delivery model e.g. voluntary sector”.
A total of 1,128 responses were received, mostly from individuals and some from local businesses and organisations. The responses showed “overwhelming” support for a continued face to face service.
The two councils have said they are now holding discussions again over the future of the service.
The TIC is expected to be vacated by the end of August to allow for the council’s office refurbishment, although this project has also been put on hold due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor Tony Alford, portfolio holder for Customer, Community and Regulatory Services at Dorset Council, said: “We appreciate a lot has happened since the early part of this year when many of us took part in the public consultation on the future of tourism services in Lyme Regis and attended our drop-in sessions in the town.
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected how we all live and work on a daily basis. We are marking the relaxation of lockdown by reviewing public accessibility to council services and wanted to update you on progress.
“We would like to thank local residents, businesses, organisations and visitors to Lyme Regis for sharing their views about how any changes to the current Tourist Information Centre would affect them.
“The discussions which are taking place between Dorset Council and Lyme Regis Town Council very much centre on feedback from the public consultation and the many suggestions put forward.
“We value everyone’s input and would like to thank everyone for sharing their views which are being used to shape and inform the future of local information services in Lyme Regis.”
Town clerk John Wright added: “Lyme Regis Town Council is in active discussions with Dorset Council regarding the future of local information services in Lyme Regis.
“While no decisions have been made about how or where these services may be delivered, both councils are working together to find a sustainable outcome which will benefit the whole town and provide access to key local information.”