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‘Under-used’ shelters lose £26k every year
THE £1.4million Marine Parade Shelters are losing thousands of pounds every year and are ‘significantly under used’ by the community.
The refurbished shelters, which were opened in July 2011, will lose around £26,000 every year until Lyme Regis Town Council pays off its loan to West Dorset District Council in 2031.
Taking into account council tax, repairs and maintenance, the facility will make a loss of more than £645,000 by the time the loan is paid off.
This bleak forecast went before councillors at a town management meeting, when deputy town clerk John Wright warned members they would need to consider ‘bold options’ to increase revenue.
Mr Wright said: “The message, whichever way you look at it, is the same: the shelters will operate at a significant deficit until such time as the loan to WDDC is repaid in 2031.”
Although the shelters make an annual profit of £19,034, when the annual loan repayment of £37,500 is taken into account, the council is left with a £18,466 deficit.
Mr Wright said this rises to around £26,000 if council tax, repairs and maintenance are factored in.
Mr Wright also outlined how commercial areas – the market and performance areas and Langmoor and Lister Rooms – are not being used enough, and a significant amount of staff time is spent on running the facilities.
Even during the height of summer, the commercial areas were only used for 296 hours out of 2,976 – 9.9 per cent of the time available.
Mr Wright said: “The shelters are a tremendous asset to the Marine Parade and the town, and its value can’t solely be measured in monetary terms.
“It leaves visitors with a positive impression and must contribute to footfall.
“However, for the next 20 years, the project does carry a significant financial cost.
“To redress this, the town council needs to consider how it can quickly increase revenue from this asset without detracting from the character of the shelters or the town.
“The quick and simple answer is to let either the Langmoor or Lister Room on a commercial basis.
“The same should be done with the east and west storage rooms.”
Mr Wright said the council must develop a marketing strategy for the shelters to draw people in, and reduce the amount of time staff spend working on the facility.
Coun Michaela Ellis was against letting the rooms out.
She said: “Promotion of these areas should be our first port of call and hope to bring more revenue in that way.”
Coun George Symonds said they would be used more if they were such a community asset.
He added: “I would support using them for another purpose to bring income to this council rather than them becoming a burden.”
Coun Lucy Campbell said one of the community rooms – preferably the Langmoor room as it has lift access – should remain available for public use.
“But I can see it’s got financial benefits for us,” she added.