Camper van site could replace seaside lorry park

Exmouth’s former lorry park which overlooks the Exe Estuary could become a dedicated location for motorhomes and camper van pitches.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

The site off The Royal Avenue, near to the train station, has been put forward as a possible location in East Devon where ‘appropriate facilities’ would be provided by the council to allow longer stays, and for which a premium overnight rate comparable with commercial campsites could be charged.

The East Devon Car Parking TAFF, when they met on Wednesday morning, backed officer proposals 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 Natural England this winter to consider the impact of the first such development on the site of Exmouth’s former lorry park adjacent to the Estuary, 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 the 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 that increasing the charges to £15-20 a night would cover the extra cost of providing fresh water and additional refuge at the site where we are allowing stopovers.

On the proposals for the former lorry park, he said that it would need Natural England consent and planning consent, and that while consent from Natural England could be a significant hurdle, he would begin to make the enquiries if councillors supported the proposals.

DAY VISITORS

The TAFF backed keeping the policy unchanged and that visitors and residents may 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 parking with care

STOPOVERS/SHORT OVERNIGHT STAYS

The TAFF backed the proposals that overnight stays in car parks 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.

FIRE SAFETY

The Council can allow overnight stays in circumstances that are compliant with relevant fire safety legislation and 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 so they can manage spacing to stop people parking wherever they like

The view across the Exe Estuary from the Exmouth lorry park (Image Google Maps)

The view across the Exe Estuary from the Exmouth lorry park (Image Google Maps)

TARIFFS

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 physiological barrier of a £20 fee and would ensure it wasn’t too high and driving visitors out from using the car parks

ARRANGEMENTS FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS

Residents will still be unable to purchase a parking permit to use our public car parks for long-term storage of motorhomes and campervans when they are not in use, but it has to be a vehicle that fits into a standard bay.

One safeguard to be introduced is to make it a condition that the exemption will only apply in areas where the resident lives in close proximity to the car park in question and where the vehicle is registered and insured in their name at that home address.

DEDICATED SITES

The TAFF backed the proposals from officers to explore the possibility of creating dedicated motorhome / camper van 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 that they would propose beginning a formal consultation process with local members and Natural England this winter to consider the impact of the first such development on the site of Exmouth’s former lorry park adjacent to the Estuary.

He added: “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 that 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 camper vans and motorhomes won’t stop coming so the council needs to encourage them to a certain extent but to manage them in some way.

LOCAL PLAN

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.

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