COUNTY councillors have overruled an officer recommendation and have pushed forward plans for a pedestrian crossing in Lyme Regis.
Dorset County Council’s Regulatory Committee have recommended that Cabinet approve plans for a puffin crossing in Broad Street, despite officers warning it could “adversely affect business” and increase air pollution due to the loss of on-street parking spaces it would cause.
Lyme Regis Town Council first requested a pedestrian crossing in 2016 when more than 600 residents signed a petition in favour of the idea, but several councillors have since retracted their support and the plans received significant opposition when they went to public consultation.
Town and district councillor Cheryl Reynolds – who organised the initial petition – has remained in support of the scheme and spoke in favour of it at today’s meeting, along with Lyme Regis resident Lizzie Wiscombe, who brought her guide dog with her.
They have argued that the crossing is required for safety reasons, especially for the elderly, disabled and those with pushchairs and young children.
County councillors dismissed the officer’s recommendation, which stated: “Having considered the representations received, Cabinet be recommended not to support the provision of a puffin crossing as advertised, due to the loss of on-street parking which would increase air pollution and could adversely affect businesses.
“It is considered that the risk of potential impacts on local businesses, from the loss of parking and loading provision, outweighs the benefits of a crossing.”
Pedestrian safety outweighs objections
Following the Regulatory Committee’s decision to recommend approval of the crossing, the county council issued the following statement: “Regulatory Committee members recently approved a proposal for a puffin crossing in Broad Street, Lyme Regis.
“Although this was against officer recommendations, members felt that the benefit to pedestrian safety outweighed the objections received.”
Councillor Reynolds added: “I was very touched by the care and consideration that the Regulatory Committee afforded myself, Lizzie and Healey [guide dog]. They were very considerate towards people less able. They spent time looking at all the evidence and were insistent that nothing would change with the decision when the unitary authority comes into force.
“They also wanted to bring in a spearate recommendation that Lyme Regis Town Council work with Highways to look at moving the Broad Street bus stop back to its original position.
“I was very impressed with their professionalism and good sense.”
After Dorset County Council drew up initial plans for the crossing, town councillors expressed concerns about its proposed location between the Pug & Puffin and Joules stores, and the number of on-street parking spaces that would be lost – initially thought to be seven or eight.
County council officers said the location was the only practical position for the crossing, because of access to private properties and car parks, and the disabled parking bay outside Boots.
However, they agreed to reduce the length of the zig-zag markings on the lower side of the crossing, meaning it would only result in the loss of four or five spaces.
Despite their concerns, town councillors continued to give their approval for the scheme, saying there was “no other option”.
Commenting on social media following last week’s unexpected decision, county councillor Daryl Turner said the town council’s current view would now be “very important”.
Town council to reconsider its position
The matter was raised again at this week’s town council meeting, when members agreed they should review the matter at an extraordinary meeting to be held on Wednesday, December 19.
Councillor Jeff Scowen said: “I voted for it but I would change my vote after speaking to a lot of people. This council should look at it again because I think its position may have changed.”
Councillor Brian Larcombe asked whether the Cabinet at Dorset County Council was able to overturn the Regulatory Committee’s recommendation.
Councillor Turner said they could, but there would have to be a “major factor”, such as a change in the town council’s stance.
Councillor Larcombe said it was “vital” that the decision be reversed.
Dorset County Council’s Cabinet is expected to make a final decision on the crossing in January.
Discussions regarding the crossing on social media sites have received a mixed reaction from residents, with some agreeing it is needed for safety and others saying it is unnecessary and will cause “traffic chaos”.
One joker even went as far to draw a pedestrian crossing across Broad Street in chalk last weekend, signing it with the name of controversial artist ‘Banksy’.
What is a puffin crossing?
The proposal in Broad Street is for a puffin crossing. This is a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights which go green again only when no more pedestrians are detected on the crossing by infrared detectors and mats.
The lights controlling pedestrians are also on the same side as the pedestrian, rather than on the opposite side as seen on a pelican crossing, as this encourages them to look in the direction of oncoming traffic.
Pelican crossings are no longer being installed in the UK.