TOWN councillors have to agree on a proposed solution to traffic congestion problems in Lyme Regis before taking it to county council officers.
The comments were made at last week’s Strategy & Finance Committee meeting, when councillors failed make a clear case to Michael Potter, head of collision avoidance at Dorset County Council, on how they would like to see traffic problems improved.
Mr Potter was invited to the meeting to hear councillors’ views and concerns on traffic management, but this was not included on the agenda and only five members attended the meeting.
He said he had previously spoken to some members of the town council and had already emailed them reasons against a suggested one-way system across the whole town.
Councillor Cheryl Reynolds then read a statement from committee chairman, Councillor Steve Miller, who was absent from the meeting, which outlined how he thought a smaller one-way system around the Silver Street, Pound Street and Pound Road area would work.
He suggested that Silver Street be made one-way downwards from the junction with Hill Road to the junction with Broad Street. The section from the junction with Hill Road up to the junction with Pound Road would legally remain two-way, but Councillor Miller suggested a sign at the top of Hill Road saying ‘no access except for emergency vehicles’ be erected to deter traffic from turning right, effectively making the whole road one-way but still allowing access for emergency services.
Driving along Pound Street from the Pound Road entrance, he suggested that this remain two-way until the second entrance to Lyme Regis Nursing Home on the right, and the section from this entrance to the Mariners Hotel car park on the left be one-way.
“Whilst not expert there is a considerable amount of support for this proposal from townsfolk and visitors and it should not simply be dismissed as a ‘non-starter’,” he said.
He argued that the proposed system would be safer for traffic, pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
“This should be seen as a common sense approach to improving both vehicle flow and safety and also improving pedestrian safety. It should also been seen as potentially the first step in progressively improving traffic flows in and around Lyme Regis by also improving the access along Church Road; augmenting a permanent park and ride solution at Sidmouth Road and Charmouth road sites; and improving the signage on the arterial routes into and out of Lyme Regis which will necessarily involve Devon Highways.”
Councillor Brian Larcombe argued that Councillor Miller’s statement was not the agreed view of the council, commenting: “I’d like to make it very, very clear that is one councillor’s view and it is flawed in some respects so please don’t take it as being the council’s view. What Steve has proposed is Steve’s idea – it hasn’t been adopted, it hasn’t been voted on and we haven’t debated it in that kind of detail, and there are some things wrong with that proposal.
“It’s undeniable that we want to see some kind of solution to the traffic problems we’ve got.”
Councillor Larcombe expressed concerns that the one-way system would not work with number of day-trippers wanting to park at Holmbush car park, and instead suggested a ‘give way to ascending traffic’ sign be installed on Silver Street instead.
He also suggested restricting the size of vehicles allowed through Lyme Regis, rather than just the weight, with signs erected on the outskirts of the town – suggested size restriction signs rather than just weight restrictions on the outskirts of the town.
“The whole thing cannot be taken bit-pick. You have to look at the whole impact of everything that involves any change in the traffic system,” he added.
Councillor Reynolds argued: “There are 14 councillors on this council and whether that is just Steve’s opinion is not necessarily the truth, there may be other councillors that agree. That is for all of us to decide and you should take notice of all of our comments.”
Councillor Stan Williams also expressed concerns about the proposed one-way system, commenting: “There’s no doubt, there’s no way you can feed all the traffic down Silver Street. All the boats that are towed to the Cobb would have to go that way, it would never work. I would make it one-way the other way, because all you’re doing is throwing traffic down into Broad Street which is jammed up half the time now anyway.”
Councillor Williams also told Councillor Reynolds she “shouldn’t have made a statement that sounds like it’s come from the whole council”, but Councillor Reynolds pointed out the statement was from Councillor Miller and asked Councillor Williams to correct himself.
Councillor Williams said: “We need to have a proper debate on it. We shouldn’t push it until we’ve discussed it properly.”
The Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said: “We are not the experts, we need an expert to help sort the traffic problem in the town. We need something to stop the big lorries coming into the town and hitting this Guildhall.
“I don’t want us as a town to do anything that’s then going to affect the rest of the town. I want to see something done to improve how the residents and visitors see the town and how we move about the town in cars.”
She suggested that a traffic survey of the whole town needed to be carried out and asked Mr Potter if this was something he could help with.
Mr Potter replied: “There’s not a lot I can comment on directly in terms of a plan because there’s not a clear steer or agreement from the town council.”
He added that one-way systems “are not without their safety concerns” and often encouraged traffic to speed up, and that there were no safety grounds to justify any major expenditure in the Silver Street area, as there had only been one accident on the road in the past five years and this was alcohol related.
“Unless we’ve got a agreed steer on what would be desired by the town council there’s little I can take forward to my colleagues in transport planning,” he added.
Councillor Ellis asked him what was the best way forward.
He said: “It’s best to have an agreed way forward. Whether we can actually deliver what you have agreed is another thing but at least have something to comment on or investigate.”
Councillor Reynolds asked if it would be possible to carry out a feasibility study of the traffic movement and problems in the town, similar to that carried out for the recently proposed pedestrian crossing in Broad Street.
Councillor Ellis added: “We need to look at the whole town, not just one area. If the council decides they want this one-way system, it might make things worse in other areas of the town. That’s exactly what I don’t want to happen.
“If we had a whole survey and would have helped they could help us come up with an idea which is more beneficial.”
Mr Potter said a feasibility study of the whole town would be an “extensive study” and he did not know if the county council had the resources for it.
Town councillors agreed to have a full debate on the matter at a future Town Management & Highways Committee meeting.