Council slaps maximum stay and new charges on Sidmouth “shoppers'” car park

A Sidmouth car park will have new charges and time limits from April, after Councillors agreed to grant it ‘unique’ status, writes Ollie Heptinstall.

Roxburgh short stay car park, in Russell Street, Sidmouth, will become a shoppers’ car park with a maximum stay allowed of two hours.

An East Devon District Council report revealed the tariff will be a minimum of 75p for 30 minutes parking and £1.50 per hour. Even permit holders – local residents who pay £10 per month – will be limited to two hours at a time.

A £2 a day winter parking offer will continue between October and March each year, agreed as part of the new budget approved last month.

It featured controversial increases to charges in the district’s council-run car parks which meant those who use Roxburgh, along with 20 other seaside car parks, were set to pay £2 per hour for the first three hours, with the fourth being free.

Charges will increase to £1.50 per hour in six other ‘prime locations’ in a bid to bolster the council’s finances, raising an extra £1.1 million for the council.

However, the council reconsidered its proposal for the Sidmouth facility and has now decided to give it ‘unique status within the car park portfolio after a vote at an extraordinary meeting of the council on Tuesday (March 22).

The report explained: “In recognition of its value to the town as the car park of choice for local shoppers needing a quick ‘in and out’ trip to the town, the intention is to re-designate Roxburgh short stay car park as a ‘shoppers’’ car park.

“Unlike the other short stay car parks in our portfolio, where the intent is to encourage visitors to take in the various offers and attractions of the town at their leisure, customers at Roxburgh will not be given their additional hour of free parking.”

“It is considered that this will be of benefit to the residents and businesses of Sidmouth and provide an appropriate balance between the needs to service the leisure industry and the local needs of those living and operating businesses in Sidmouth,” the report added.

While the change was voted through, a number of councillors queried why it had not been included in the recently-agreed budget.

Some went further and criticised the move, including Councillor Colin Brown (Conservative, Dunkeswell and Otterhead), who said it would lead to higher pollution and negatively impact Sidmouth’s businesses with customers not being able to park at Roxburgh for as long.

Councillor Fred Caygill (Exmouth Brixington) questioned why a specific car park in Sidmouth was being given unique status and not some others within the district, calling it ‘totally wrong’ and ‘not democratic’.

Councillor Jack Rowland (Democratic Alliance, Seaton) defended the plan, saying a number of other shoppers’ car park charges were going to be £1.50, including ones in Exmouth and another in Seaton.

Councillor Jake Bonetta (Labour, Honiton St Michael’s) welcomed the proposal. He said: “In the unique case of Sidmouth as a primary tourism hotspot in East Devon, we believe this strikes the right balance between promoting a high street and ensuring council services are not cut.”

Some members asked for the vote to go to a full council meeting for consideration, but leader Paul Arnott (Democratic Alliance, Coly Valley) pointed out they were in a full council meeting.

Cllr Arnott, who accused the previous Tory administration of failing to address parking charges, said: “You’ve got a chance to make a decision about Roxburgh. How many times do you want to dance around the head of this pin?”

A separate motion on giving the authority’s cabinet responsibility for car parking matters was also narrowly passed, by 23 votes to 21, despite a number of councillors speaking against the move.

As well as criticising the recently-agreed increase in parking charges, they said it should be left for all council members to decide.

However, Cllr Arnott said work on a policy had been left ‘unfinished’ by the council’s car parking task and finish forum, run by the opposition. He said cabinet was a ‘useful body in which to have the preliminary discussions’.

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