STRAWBERRY FIELDS in Lyme Regis looks set to stay undeveloped for yet another year following a council vote to shelve development for the site – a move which has been blasted by the site landowner.
The fate of the controversial land, which has already remained untouched for more than a decade, was discussed at a Lyme Regis Town Council policy and strategy meeting on April 30.
Previous council development plans include a failed allotment project, a park and ride facility recently deemed too expensive, a field study centre idea shelved for the time being and a pavilion for the town’s football club – but the site was bought without planning permission to do that.
The 999-year lease, which the council bought from landowner Cliff Powley in 2001 for £56,000, states the field can be used for sport and recreational facilities and as a park and ride facility only.
At the meeting’s public forum, Mr Powley slated the council for showing ‘a certain arrogance’ in not consulting him over the fate of Strawberry Fields.
He added: “I thought new lessons had been learnt over the allotment fiasco in 2010 but this doesn’t seem the case – something needs to be done with the site. Part of Strawberry Fields is now also used as a dumping ground for materials, plastic and rubbish.”
Council options included either doing nothing, selling the lease, seeking an independent leisure provider about developing the site for sport or recreation or doing it itself.
Town clerk John Wright, pictured left, recommended doing nothing with the site to see what may appear in the near future to serve its sporting facilities.
He added: “I propose we wait. We have three leases up on March 31 next year with West Dorset District Council, as well as the bowling club lease due to expire in 2019.
“The council simply doesn’t have the resources to go to Strawberry Fields and invest money on a major project.”
Cllr Ellis proposed the council also keep the land while Cllr Gage suggested the site be used for mixed leisure use, but Cllr Lovell stated he was ‘very unhappy’ to do nothing.
He said: “We have the potential for the site to provide recreational facilities.
He proposed that the bowling club move to Strawberry Fields, providing free parking for club members and that the existing club land is used for beach chalets.
Cllr O’Grady discussed using the site as a Park and Ride site in the summer, adding that doing so would solve the town’s parking problems. However, the town council has just rejected the park and ride idea. It currently has sheep grazing for free to save the costs of grass cutting.
There is an independent pitch and putt operation on the site but a percentage of the takings last year saw the council receiving just £65.
The proposal to do nothing with the site for now and retain it for its current uses was met with a unanimous vote by councillors.
The committee recommendations will be considered by the Full Council on May 21.