COUNCILLORS have said a pedestrian crossing in the centre of Lyme Regis would “kill” the town, despite previously backing the scheme.
Town councillors last year pushed for a pedestrian crossing to be built in Broad Street, following a petition signed by more than 100 residents. The matter was taken to Dorset County Council where it was moved to the top of list of crossing requests and later allocated funding from the 2017-18 budget.
A design for the puffin crossing has now been sent back to the town council for initial comments before a wider consultation is held, but members were shocked to see the scheme would result in the loss of seven to eight parking spaces in Broad Street.
The proposed scheme would see the crossing built between the Pug & Puffin and Joules stores. Many councillors said they were under the impression the crossing would be created further down the road, where the pavement is already widened outside 57-58 Broad Street – the former town council offices – but highways officers have said this is not possible because of the proximity to the Royal Lion Hotel and Three Cups car park entrances.
Speaking at last week’s Town Management & Highways Committee meeting, the Mayor of Lyme Regis, Councillor Michaela Ellis, said she was “disappointed” to see how many parking spaces would be lost and she was concerned that the town would end up with just the disabled bay and two other spaces at the top of the high street, and the spaces outside the Royal Lion.
“I can see a lot of people being dead against this with all these parking spaces being lost,” she added.
“There is no way that I can agree with this, because for as many people who want this crossing there are going to be just as many people who do not want to lose the parking spaces up there. We’ve got to think of both lots of people.”
Councillor Derek Hallett commented: “I never voted in favour of this. I think it’s unworkable; it will just cause a massive traffic problem and we have enough traffic problems without making another one.”
Councillor Jeff Scowen added: “This is really going to stack up the traffic. Yes, we do need a crossing, of course we do, but the loss of spaces and the backing up of traffic… we are severely going to back the traffic up.”
Councillor Owen Lovell said: “When you consider the economy of the town, it needs people, people need to get to the shops we have left in the town and they need parking. Taking out this number of spaces really is going to cripple the town.
“I’d be very surprised if you didn’t get every trader in the town object to this because of loss of parking.”
Town clerk John Wright acknowledged that there were likely to be objections to the proposal but he reminded councillors that they had pushed for the crossing and expressed concern that going back on the decision would “undermine their credibility”.
Councillor Ellis replied: “Yes, we have pushed, but had I had this in front of me I would not have agreed to it. As it is at the moment I cannot look at this favourably.”
Councillor Cheryl Reynolds, who originally led the campaign for the crossing, expressed disappointment that her fellow councillors had changed their views.
She commented: “In the very beginning we were told there would be a loss of six spaces, now they’re saying maybe seven. Nothing has really changed. We are the only town without a crossing and we all discussed this before, we all agreed to it.”
Councillor Stan Williams said: “To lose seven spaces, I think we’ll have a riot from the traders and the public who park there.”
Councillor Graham Turner commented: “For anyone trying to do any work in the town, it’s impossible now to park and this will make it even more impossible.”
Councillor Ellis added: “We will kill the town.”
Councillor Lovell suggested that the town council repeat its request for Dorset County Council to move the bus stop outside the post office further up the road to its original position, and to ask if the crossing could then be sited further up the road, which would result in less parking spaces being lost.
Councillor Ellis expressed concern this would affect deliveries to the Co-operative and Tesco Express.
Committee chairman Councillor John Broom commented: “It’s worth a try. If we put this forward as it is now, we will be…”
“Crucified,” Councillor Lovell interjected.
It was agreed to go back to Dorset County Council and ask if there were any alternative locations for the crossing.