Calls have been made to review the “absolute bargain” charging regime for motorhomes and camper vans staying overnight in Exmouth.
Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
Camper vans and motorhomes are able to stay in the town for up to three consecutive nights for just £11 for 24 hours, in three long stay car parks.
The scheme introduced in 2018 also saw the vehicles banned between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. along sections of Imperial Road and Queens Drive, as well as a 24-hour restriction on motor caravans along sections of Queen’s Drive.
An East Devon District council car parking committee has agreed to ask officers to review camper van and motorhome policy, and called for tariffs to rise, potentially to £30 a night.
Andrew Ennis, East Devon’s service lead for car parks, told the meeting that East Devon is seeing more and more camper vans and motorhomes on the highway and they are appearing in their car parks and the Exmouth pilot – which allowed overnight parking in Imperial Road Recreation Ground, Queens Drive Echelon, and also Maer Road has been broadly successful and there is a significant and growing demand from our visitors for short duration “aire” style facilities throughout East Devon.
His report proposed that the council should begin a consultation with Ward Members seek to introduce a revised policy that welcomes over-night stays in specified car parks across East Devon unless there are local circumstances that would mean that there would be an unacceptable negative impact in the vicinity.
The tariff will allow an overnight stay in approved car parks (where no other facilities are provided) of one, two or three consecutive nights only (with no return permitted within 24 hours), but motorhome and campervan customers will not be eligible for purchasing our standard car park permits and will only be permitted to use our pay and display car parks on a “pay as you use” basis.
And officers would also like to explore the possibility of creating dedicated motorhome / campervan pitches within a site with appropriate facilities to allow longer stays, and for which a premium overnight rate of say £30 per night could be expected.
Cllr Jack Rowland said that it was a difficult subject to get the right balance on. He said: “We want to attract tourists into the area, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t like to think we are providing the facilities and charging that may undercut the businesses that provide the full facilities in the area. I wish I could come up with an easy solution to this but I don’t think there is one.”
Cllr Maddy Chapman said that the summer before last, she counted 38 camper vans on the seafront parked less than one metre apart, and that there should be certain car parks designed for certain jobs as ‘if they can park willy-nilly, it will cause massive problems’.
Cllr Andrew Coleman said that the £11 a night to park on the seafront was “too good of a deal”. He added: “£11 for 24 hours is very cheap for the seafront and it should double, and would see some of the problem going away.”
And Cllr Olly Davey said that as local campsite charge around £14-18, the £11 on the seafront is an absolute bargain, adding that most places he goes to are around £20 a night.
With the coronavirus pandemic potentially leading to restrictions on foreign travel, Cllr Ben Ingham added that East Devon was likely this holiday to see people visiting in motorhomes ‘on a scale that we hadn’t envisaged before the pandemic’.
He added: “I am convinced we will see more this year as people wary about travelling abroad. £11 is not high enough, as we have to tie in with the private sector and make sure that people don’t just park in the car parks to get the cheapest deal and undermining local business. We should be raking in the money rather than giving it away.”
Cllr Mike Howe said that everyone agreed that the charges should be increased, but that he was wary of then charging too much. He added: “We don’t want them to be ripped off and that they do want to come back year after year. They are way too cheap at the moment but they need to be value for money and attractive so they come.”
The committee unanimously agreed to ask officers to investigate further and draw up a report on the issues around camper van and motorhome parking in East Devon, which would look at the success of the pilot sites in Exmouth, whether it should be rolled out to the rest of the district, how to manage ‘daytime’ parking in the car parks, and how pricing levels the tariffs should be set at.
Mr Ennis added: “There is a debate to be had there about whether spaces are worth £20 or £30 a night, but we will need to do further work on what is an appropriate pricing structure.”
The committee asked for the report to come back ‘as soon as possible’ so everyone can benefit from its recommendations.