SEATON mayor Jack Rowland is optimistic that the Jurassic Mule bus can return to the town in a way that suits all parties.
The mayor has had a series of meetings with Jurassic Mule owner Derek Gawn, and has also met with Haven Court management and residents.
Mr Gawn controversially withdrew the seasonal open top bus service early this summer because of alleged hostility towards staff by a small number of people in Seaton and Colyton.
At one stage, Mr Gawn said he had no intention of returning next year.
Seaton Town Council, led by mayor Jack Rowland, has tried to find a solution because it “recognises the importance of increasing the amount of visitors to the town and believes that the Jurassic Mule plays a key role in this”.
Councillor Rowland said: “I am pleased with the way that these meetings have gone and am optimistic that the Jurassic Mule service will continue in 2018.
“The council is lobbying East Devon District Council and Devon County Council to get the improved road layout in the Underfleet so that buses have a place to pull in off the road to prevent traffic congestion.
“We have also signposted Mr Gawn to sources of funding so that he can update his vehicles.”
Mr Gawn said: “I am currently working on the possibility of providing some form of Jurassic Mule service for 2018 and am working with both Lyme Regis and Seaton Town councils.
“I am also investigating updating my vehicles so that the emissions are reduced. In order to do this I am seeking funding.
“In the meantime, I would like to thank all our friends in the town for their overwhelming support through this difficult period.”
He did, however, stress the need to find a local operations manager for the service to be able to continue, because of his own retirement from the day-to-day running of the business.
As well as meeting with Mr Gawn, Councillor Rowland has also met with Ian Beaven and Pat Lowther from Haven Court (which neighbours the stop in Seaton).
Mr Beaven, Haven Court manager, said: “We feel that the residents of Haven Court have been unfairly maligned in the press when we are fully supportive of tourism and the Jurassic Mule.
“No one here wants to see the Jurassic Mule cease trading, our residents just have concerns over the emissions from buses generally.
“It is good news that Mr Gawn is planning to update his vehicles and we look forward to seeing the Jurassic Mule continue in the future.”
Pat Lowther, a resident at Haven Court who has previously voiced concerns over the Jurassic Mule, said: “I have used the Jurassic Mule myself and really enjoyed the experience.
“I think it’s a great way of bringing tourists into the town and I’m fully supportive of the service continuing and I am glad that Mr Gawn is looking to purchase some more emission friendly vehicles.”
The town council statement concluded: “The discussions between the town council and Mr Gawn will continue and further updates will be provided as and when appropriate.”