DRIVERS were left with ‘difficulty and frustration’ when a car park was left locked over the festive period – particularly on the day of one of the biggest events in West Bay’s calendar.

The overflow car park at West Bay Road, operated by West Dorset District Council (WDDC), was left closed over Christmas and New Year, leading to traffic problems during the West Bay Wallow swim on Boxing Day.

Many people complained about the decision, saying it left them unable to park.

Reverend Philip Ringer said the ‘prolonged and unexplained closure’ led to ‘considerable difficulty for many motorists and a great deal of frustration for residents.’

John McHugh, founder of the swim in 2004, said it was ‘stupidity’ the car park was left closed.

“The swim brings people out and gets them involved in the community on Boxing Day,” he said. “It’s grown bigger and bigger and people come from quite some way to take part – it is a big money raiser for good causes. For people to get here and find there’s nowhere to park, when there’s a car park there with all those spaces, is stupidity.

“It’s not in keeping with the community spirit.”

Bridport Town Council clerk, Will Austin, says the council recieved 'quite a few complaints' which have been passed to the district council. 

Mr Austin said: "They did reply saying it was an oversight, and that they would include it in the scheduled opening for next year.  I was at the Wallow and saw for myself that more parking was needed, so have also offered to hold a key so that I can open up if needed in future."

The swim has taken place on Boxing Day since 2004, yet Cllr Russell, WDDC portfolio holder for environmental protection and assets, says the car park remained closed because the parking team did not receive any requests for it to be opened for the swim before the offices closed for the Christmas break.

Cllr Russell said: “As no contact with the council had been made, we did not make plans to open this area of the car park. The overflow car park is locked to prevent anti-social behaviour and vandalism during the week and to ensure that it is free of vehicles to enable the car boot sale to take place on Sundays during the Spring and Summer. We will always do our best to accommodate events but need notification of the event taking place in order to make suitable arrangements.”