BUSINESSES in Lyme Regis have hit out over claims the town’s tourist information centre could close as part of district council cost cutting measures.
The closure may be a possibility due to a three-year programme of service reviews by West Dorset District Council entitled ‘Vision 2020’.
Concerns by town councillors that ‘important parts of the community’ would be lost were highlighted in a strategy and policy committee meeting on May 7 by town clerk John Wright, who said district council plans include a 2014 to 2015 review of the TIC.
Councillors heard that WDDC could save at least £300,000 by undertaking an alternative tourist information delivery model.
At the meeting, councillors also expressed their unanimous desire to take back the Monmouth Beach car park lease from WDDC in 2015, despite concerns it may impact on other district council services in the town, such as the TIC and public toilets.
The news of the likely TIC review in 2015 has caused uproar from local businesses and traders.
Sarah Clark, manager at The Town Mill, said: “You can’t have a town like Lyme Regis without a TIC; to do so would be a very sad thing.
“Lyme Regis is a key place that people in the South West seek out to visit, and despite the location of the TIC being slightly tucked away, staff are very proactive in terms of giving people up-to-date information and promoting events.”
Ben Walker, manager at the Volunteer Inn in Lyme Regis, called the TIC a ‘necessity’ of the town.
He added: “A tourist information centre is vital to any town that relies of tourism, and in Lyme Regis that is definitely the case.
“We get a lot of tourists in the pub saying they have been to the TIC first and as a result know more about the town and things to do while they’re here.”
Town councillors also aired their concerns at the recent council meeting.
Mayor of Lyme Regis Sally Holman, said: “The TIC is a part of Lyme Regis we can’t afford to lose; we need plans for the TIC in place by the end of this year.”
Cllr Austin added: “In other towns facilities such as the TIC have already been taken away; we need to ensure this doesn’t happen here.”
A community planning review scheduled for 2015 could also save WDDC £80,000 by 2017 – but the district council currently contributes £10,896 towards community planning in Lyme.
Additionally, a public toilets review scheduled for 2015 to 2016 indentifies the opportunity of transferring the Lyme public toilets to alternative providers.
Addressing other town councillors at the meeting, Cllr Gage said: “It seems nothing is going to come from WDDC until the completion of this 2020 service review.
“Currently, the only certain thing is we want to take back the Monmouth Beach car park lease.
“Unfortunately the ball is in their court and we have to work within their timescale.”
Any committee recommendations will be considered by Full Council on May 21.
Weymouth TIC closed under cost-cutting measures
West Dorset District Council currently runs four tourist information centres in Dorchester, Sherborne, Bridport and Lyme Regis.
A decision to close Weymouth’s tourist information centre sparked outrage among traders and businesses back in 2013.
The TIC closed at the end of May after investigations into other ways to deliver visitor information and an online survey.
It came as part of a cost-cutting decision by Weymouth and Portland borough councillors to hand the Pavilion over to the community to run, releasing it from local authority control.
The Portland TIC also closed in September 2013 and was replaced by five privately-run information points.