LYME Regis is suffering from a dramatic drop in trade – caused by ‘road closed’ signs prompted by the partial collapse of a town centre building.

Ward councillor Belinda Bawden says while it might be expected that the town would be busy at this time of year it has the appearance of a ghost town.

She had asked Dorset Council to consider granting a request for two extra days of free parking to help attract people into the resort town and is now looking for other measures to help the town.

Cllr Bawden told Thursday evening’s Dorset Council meeting that many traders were fearing the worst and several had decided not to take on the extra staff they usually do at this time of year because of drop in takings.

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“A disappointing trading year thanks to a wet August and successive road closures from early September is now exacerbated by the emergency road closure on 8 November at the bottom of Broad Street,” she told fellow councillors.

“As the weeks have rolled on and the large red ‘Road Closed’ signs have clearly deterred day visitors and Christmas shoppers alike, our businesses throughout the town are genuinely worried. Already students have been told there is no Christmas work for them, some owners fear they may need to make staff redundant, and others fear closure altogether.

"Anecdotally the businesses are being told that the ‘Road Closed’ signs as far away as Beer on the coast road are encouraging shoppers to go to Sidmouth. I can attest to the usual heavy traffic on the A35 going west from Bridport but most of it is not going into Lyme, reacting instead to the ‘Road Closed’ sign before drivers have time to read ‘Businesses open as usual’.”

Cllr Bawden also asked for talks with Dorset Highways and their counterparts in Devon to see if signage could be improved.

“If it isn’t possible for Dorset Council to reconsider my request for an additional two days of free parking this weekend to boost attendance at the Christmas Tree Festival, Santa’s Grotto, the Christmas Craft and Vintage Markets and Santa’s workshop in our restored Town Mill, could we perhaps discuss developing a longer term vision of fewer vehicle movements through Lyme’s town centre so residents, visitors and businesses could enjoy a safer and healthier public realm and learn to appreciate the benefits of a ‘people first’ town centre?”

READ MORE: Lyme Regis has gone 'silent' after Broad Street closure

Highways portfolio holder Cllr Ray Bryan said that while residents and businesses had his utmost sympathy the best he could do was ask for the signs to be reviewed in conjunction with highways teams in Devon to strengthen the message that town centre businesses and car parks were open as usual.

“Turning to the wider point about a ‘people first’ town centre: We will be developing a longer-term vision for transport in our town centres to encourage economic growth, healthier environments, and active travel, as part of the creation of a new Local Transport Plan for Dorset.  The public consultation on transport issues and opportunities to inform the development of the Plan starts in January, so we urge everyone to please put their views forward.  In addition, we’ll be working directly with Local Councillors, Towns and Parish Councils to get their views,” said Cllr Bryan.