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Exmouth’s former lorry park, overlooking the Exe Estuary, could become a dedicated location for motorhomes and camper van pitches.
The site off the Royal Avenue, near the station, has been put forward as a possible location where ‘appropriate facilities’ would be provided by the district council to allow longer stays, and for which a premium overnight rate comparable with commercial campsites could be charged.
The East Devon Car Parking Task and Finish Forum (TAFF), who met on Wednesday, March 3, backed proposals from council officers to explore the possibility of creating dedicated motorhome / camper van pitches at the site.
Subject to approval by Cabinet at a later date, the council would begin a formal consultation process with Natural England this winter to consider the impact of the first such development on the site - although Andrew Ennis, East Devon’s service lead for car parks, said that this could be a ‘significant hurdle’ to overcome.
The TAFF also recommended that the existing ‘absolute bargain’ charge for £11 for 24 hours be increased to between £15-20 a night, with overnight stays in car parks allowed in any of the pay and display car parks that are “deemed suitable”.
Mr Ennis, in his report, said that East Devon is seeing an increasing number of motorhomes in beauty spots and the car parks, and the revised policy he had put forward was not about encouraging visitors but to alleviate some of the issues that may arise, or offer services that could benefit the community and generate some useful revenue for the council in the process.
He said increasing the charges to £15-20 a night would cover the extra cost of providing fresh water and additional refuge at the site allowing stopovers.
He said he would begin making enquiries to Natural England if councillors supported the proposals.
The TAFF backed keeping the policy on day visitors unchanged, enabling visitors and residents to use any public car parks, but if their vehicle is unable to park wholly within one of the standard parking bays (2.4m x 4.8m) then they must park with care.
Stopovers and short overnight stays
The TAFF backed the proposal that overnight stays can be allowed, subject to strict terms and conditions of use, in any of the pay and display car parks that are 'deemed suitable' in consultation with ward members and the relevant town or parish council. It may be appropriate to allow overnight stays of three consecutive nights in suitable locations.
The council can allow overnight stays in circumstances that are compliant with relevant fire safety legislation; therefore car parks must be managed in accordance with the appropriate guidance on the safe separation of vans staying overnight.
The TAFF agreed to the suggestion made by Cllr Eleanor Rylance that bays in different colours be marked out for people parking overnight, to help manage spacing and stop people parking wherever they like.
The current tariff of £11 per night is set to be increased to between £15-20 a night, with the TAFF allowing the cabinet to decide upon the final figure. Mr Ennis, in his report, said: “An appropriate tariff to reflect the value of these ‘casual’ overnight stays in approved car parks for one, two or three consecutive nights only needs careful consideration.
”In my view, our current tariff of £11 per night in the Exmouth pilot is deliberately inexpensive (bearing in mind that it also includes 24 hours parking in a prime location). It was based on the previously charged on-street tariff so that the pilot did not act as a deterrent and sought to encourage existing visitors to relocate from the desirable seafront highway parking spaces into a less intrusive location within an off-street car park.
“If we were to up the charge to £15-20 a night, it would cover the extra cost of providing fresh water and additional refuge at the site where we are allowing stopovers.
Cllr Maddy Chapman said that £20 a night wasn’t a great deal, while Cllr Olly Davey said that £18 was a better figure as it was just low enough to overcome the psychogical barrier of a £20 fee and would ensure it wasn’t too high, driving visitors out from using the car parks.
Arrangements for local residents
Residents will still be unable to purchase a parking permit to use public car parks for long-term storage of motorhomes and campervans when they are not in use, but the council will, on a case-by-case basis, consider “exemption” permits for residents who can demonstrate that they rely on a small campervan as their regular daily transport and that they do not have suitable alternative off-street parking facilities available elsewhere.
One safeguard to be introduced is to make it a condition that the exemption will only apply in areas where the resident lives close to the car park in question and where the vehicle is registered and insured in their name at that home address.
The TAFF backed the proposals from officers to explore the possibility of creating dedicated motorhome / campervan pitches within sites with appropriate facilities to allow longer stays and for which a premium overnight rate comparable with commercial campsites could be charged.
Mr Ennis said: “The implementation of this would be subject to further consideration by members in due course in terms of financial investment decisions and might also need to be the subject of a planning application depending on the exact details of the change from Lorry Park to camp site.”
Cllr Rylance said the lorry park site was perfect for overnight camping, with Cllr Davey adding that it would be a very attractive site and an exciting opportunity, while Cllr Joe Whibley said that campervans and motorhomes won’t stop coming so the council needs to encourage them to a certain extent but to manage them in some way.
The TAFF agreed to proposals from Cllr Val Ranger that a formal planning policy for motorhomes and campervans should be tied into the Local Plan review to address the issue across the whole of East Devon.
The recommendations of the TAFF will now go to the scrutiny committee for consideration, before finally being sent to the cabinet for a final decision as to whether to move forward with the suggestions made as part of the revised motorhomes policy for East Devon.