In a series of letters to the Dartmouth Chronicle residents and visitors have been airing their discontent with the proposed increase in Council Tax and changes to the parking regulations in Dartmouth. Some extracts from these letters are included below.
R PAMPLIN, of Above Town, Dartmouth, writes:
As full-time residents in Dartmouth, we were extremely disappointed to learn about the proposed alterations to the parking arrangements.
There are, after all, many full-time residents who have no parking and rely on their parking permits for convenience throughout the year and maybe moved here on the basis of this arrangement.
For full-time residents to have to park in the park-and-ride would be a considerable inconvenience throughout the year, whereas most holidaymakers, who are only here for a short while, are generally quite happy to put up with these inconveniences during their short holiday stay.
I also think these proposals have not been aired satisfactorily and the consultation period has been far too short.
I think Dartmouth has got to decide whether it is going to be predominantly for visitors and tourists or whether full-time residents are going to be encouraged. If the former, then there is a danger that this town could become a ghost town out of season, which happens to many coastal resorts; or whether the full-time residents, who use the shops, restaurants bars and other facilities in the town throughout the year, are going to be considered and encouraged properly.
And another letter from Annette Rosser of Crowthers Hill:
ANNETTE ROSSER, of Crowthers Hill, Dartmouth, writes:
I have just read with dismay the town council report regarding ‘rates and resignations’, and I would like you to publish a few additional facts.
During my 40-plus years in this town, I have seen changes that we will soon have to be rectified due to bad construction.
First, the extension to the embankment. Raw steel shuttering, salt water one side, fresh water the other. The council was told of the expected ‘lifetime’ of this – and that time is about now. The cheap back-filling was waste from china clay pits in Cornwall, hence what looks like silver sand on the thick river mud when the tide is low. There is currently no check, either.
In Charles Street, there were two big manhole covers, now under the road surface, and I imagine lack of access at that point contributes to the smell in town, most noticeable by Boots, the Flavel Church and the police station.
When the council had Mr Curtis as its independent treasurer, I know he always kept money aside for all such future maintenance and I think the council would do well to do the same now.
Malcolm Wood of Crowthers Hill wrote
Malcolm Wood, of Crowthers Hill, Dartmouth, writes:
I am a Dartmouth holiday home owner, living in the north west, who has found the district council’s new policy almost impossible to understand as it has been communicated so badly.
The culmination of the consultation period was marked by an article in the Chronicle, February 3, headed ‘Parking permits explained’. Good on the paper for taking on the council’s role.
My impression is that the council has had to field a great many calls in recent weeks from those trying very hard to seek clarification on the policy rationale behind the changes and the implementation.
In the early stages I telephoned Follaton House myself and the first customer relations executive said he would have to get back to me… and didn’t. (I left him my email address.) A couple of days later another adviser had to spend several minutes finding out where on the website the consultation document could be found.
The document itself only listed the measures in brief bullet points, so I was none the wiser as to whether I would still be able to obtain annual permits for my holiday guests. It turns out that existing permit holders are secure, but this was very far from clear at the outset.
I am aware of notices having been attached to car park ticket machines in some car parks and that a document was available to view at the council offices, but I really question whether this amounts to effective communication in 2017.
You will know only too well how contentious parking is in Dartmouth and in other parts of the South Hams. This should surely call for much greater clarity from the council on an important new initiative such as this, and I only hope that lessons will have been learnt from this really inadequate and poorly communicated exercise.
And finally from Peter Gregson of Southford Road
PETER GREGSON, of Southford Road, Dartmouth, writes:
I wonder how many Dartmouth residents are aware of the latest proposals from Follaton House to address the parking issues in the town.
I found one notice in Mayor’s Avenue car park and reference has been made in the past two issues of the Chronicle. Alternatively, we are directed to the district council website, which is not necessarily accessible to everyone.
The basic problem is twofold: first, to satisfy the requirements of visitors; second, to meet the needs of the residents, and in particular the traders.
The assumption is that tourism is the mainstay of the town and all other considerations are of lesser importance. The reality is that, without tourism, the town would be a poorer place; but a town with no shops, no business and nowhere to park will have little attraction to a visitor.
For those who are unaware of the district council proposals, this is a summary:
* Free park-and-ride over the winter period. Sadly there will be no bus service, rendering this generous sop worthless to both residents and visitors.
* Parking on South Embankment restricted to permit holders only. There are finite places, a limited number of permits will be issued, there is no indication of the inevitable cost of a permit and no guarantee of a place even if you can afford a permit.
* No parking on North Embankment – loading only. Who loads on North Embankment?
* Parking for those with residents’ permits now proposed to be from 3pm to 10am the next day. This generous concession justifies the increase to £40 for the permit, but still does not guarantee a place.
* All other permits to be cancelled.
It is difficult to see how any of these proposals will improve the parking issues in the town.
While a few traders have their own private parking places, all others and their employees who travel to town to work have to leave their desks every hour to move their cars or risk a £30 fine, or use the park-and-ride, adding the best part of an hour to their working day – except in the winter, when the new proposals farcically suggest that they walk back up College Way in the dark to the park-and-ride.
Visitors to the town fall into two categories – long- and short-term.
Short-term visitors arrive mostly by road. Many do take advantage of the park-and-ride, but many are only passing through – they want a quick look around, a cup of coffee, perhaps buy a souvenir and get on their way. I wonder how many circle the town, fail to find a parking place and drive on.
For the benefit of the traders, these short-term visitors must be catered for to allow them to stop conveniently and spend money in the town, which is the primary purpose of tourism to any town.
Long-term visitors are either staying with friends, in hotels or in one of the many B&Bs. In the summer many do take advantage of the park-and-ride, but Mayor’s Avenue car park is always full up with long-term visitors who use their free parking permits, paid for and issued by their accommodation, blocking the spaces, or by those who can afford to feed the meter. Good income for the council, bad news for the residents and short-term visitors.
There is absolutely no need for long-term visitors to have parking permits issued by their accommodation allowing long-term parking in Mayor’s Avenue car park or anywhere else. They can and must use the park-and-ride.
Desperate situations call for desperate remedies. The only viable and currently accessible solution is to use part of Coronation Park as a car park. Forgetting for a moment the inevitable emotional outcry, considered examination of the facts is revealing.
How many people who resist the suggestion actually use the park? It appears to be principally used by dog owners with inevitable consequences. Today it is a muddy field.
Part of the park is used for cricket. This must be and can be allowed to continue. Part of the park is used for small boat storage. This is totally unnecessary. Many of these boats rarely move, the grass grows around them and the site right alongside the visitors’ arrival point on the Higher Ferry is a poor advertisement for a maritime town.
Coronation Park is a short walk on the level from the town centre – to be precise, 300 yards and four and a half-minutes’ walk to the corner of the Boat Float. As we who park our cars all know, immediate access from parking to destination is very desirable.
The spaces available in a Coronation Park car park would allow all town-centre parking to be eliminated. Just imagine the roads all round the Boat Float, the whole of Lower Street, South Embankment, Mayor’s Avenue and Smith Street all free of parked cars.
Most important of all – and the key factor in the plan – would be the conversion of the Mayor’s Avenue car park into an extension of Avenue Gardens, thus compensating for the loss of part of Coronation Park and providing a far more accessible recreational area that would better meet the needs of visitors and residents alike. A children’s recreation area could be set aside, which would undoubtedly please many parents while they shop, and a small area at the seaward end could be reserved for essential services, as at present.
There are more gardeners than dog owners in the country and they spend more money.
Obliging the use of the park-and-ride by certain categories with an all-year bus service and providing increased parking in Coronation Park would go a long way to solving Dartmouth’s infamous parking problem.
The whole of Coronation Park will accommodate more than twice the number of cars of the Mayor’s Avenue car park plus all the cars in the town centre put together.
The whole of Coronation Park less a cricket pitch will accommodate 520 cars, which equals twice the capacity of the Mayor’s Avenue car park.
The parking issue is of such major importance to the people of Dartmouth that it must not be left to Follaton House to decide, but must now be the subject of a public meeting, with Dartmouth residents able to take part in this major decision affecting the very future of the town.
Sadly Peter your suggestion has come up before and been rejected by the Town Council. I chaired a Traffic & Parking Management committee set up by the Council in 2011 to come up with some proposals after the District tried to introduce Parking Meters without consultation. The results of an extensive consultation both in the town and in the surrounding villages, showed that people accepted that the sacrifice of Coronation park to parking was a worthwhile compromise to increase the parking available for both residents and visitors. At the time the park was only used by dog walkers like today, but soon a cricket league was formed to make use of the park and to resist the parking proposals. Our Plan was supported, in an extensive survey, with 52% support in the town and in the surrounding villages but the Council, led at the time by the Mayor Paul Allen, rejected the proposals out of hand without proper debate. Again this was through a fear of the vocal minority who always stand in the way of change in the town. An opportunity lost in my opinion.
Below are some of the Dartmouth Business News Facebook responses to the Council Tax increase: