BRIDPORT: Campaigners protesting about a new car park in West Bay have blasted West Dorset District Council for opening it without consultation or planning permission.

Protesters aired their feelings about the Brit Valley Car Park, which is in a field adjacent to West Bay Road, opposite the Mead-owlands housing estate entrance, to Bridport town councillors at a planning committee meeting – and members backed their opposition.

West Dorset District Council installed large metal signs, which have been concreted in, along with a parking charging machine placed in the middle of the field.

Cllr Ros Kayes said the district council hadn’t followed any kind of democratic process – with no consultation and not even applying for planning permission before opening up the private field for parking.

She said: “My main concern is the complete lack of following the democratic process which I think has been so disrespectful of the role of this town council as to beggar belief.”

Five objectors spoke at the meeting, including Tony Fifield who said there was confirmation the field is a Site of Nature Conserva-tion Interest (SNCI) and that was why there is a covenant on the field that restricts its use to 28 days a year. He also said residents had counted the number of cars using the car park and the number had barely exceeded six or seven.

He said: “Even when Broadchurch occupied the Station Road car park still there were no cars in that new car park.

“We also counted how many spare car parking spaces there were free in the other West Bay car parks. The fact is with the exception of only two days there were always more spaces in the other car parks at West Bay than there were vehicles in the new car park.

“The two exceptions were West Bay Day and August Bank Holiday Sunday but there are still alterative solutions that have not been explored properly that would stop us destroying a site of nature conservation.”

Jill Fifield said there were other issues, including flood risk.

She said: “I am not going to talk about the fact that this planning application is retrospective without any consultation and that a lot of things are inaccurate and it is very vague about when the car park should be available.”

She said there were 10 instances where the plan was contrary to local planning guidelines.

Martin Bell said: “The meter stuck in the middle of the field is cemented in. It is not just temporary. It looks horrible and it shouldn’t be there.”

Cllr Dave Rickard said there was no mention on the planning application of the SNCI.

He said: “There has been no consultation of any sort, they haven’t done an environmental survey, and they haven’t even bothered to look at how many parking spaces there are in West Bay.

“For the planning authority to get it wrong and come grovelling for retrospective planning permission is appalling. You don’t get those signs made up overnight – this was pre-determined quite a few weeks if not months before and for them to not even tell us is appalling.”

Cllr Sarah Williams said: “This field is not suitable as a car park – the damage that vehicles will do to this field with potential oil leaks, etc hasn’t really been looked at.

“And West Bay has more car parking spaces than almost anywhere else per capita than almost the whole of Dorset. It is needless.

“They have not done any sort of flood assessment, this application is not fit for purpose.”

Cllr Phil Lathey said: “I don’t want cars parking there at all.”

Cllr Robert Gould, leader of West Dorset District Council, said: “The council is always proactive in supporting the local economy and as the summer holidays is a very busy period we would like the flexibility to use a temporary car park to cater for extra visitors during events such as West Bay Day or when our existing parking capacity is affected by things like Broadchurch filming.”