Campaign to allow campervans back in Sidmouth town centre car parks

Marlene Coachman and Helen Gibson-West with their camper vans. Ref shs 3484-08-15TI. Picture: Terry

Marlene Coachman and Helen Gibson-West with their camper vans. Ref shs 3484-08-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A campervan driver with mobility problems is campaigning against ‘draconian’ parking measures that ban the vehicles from Sidmouth’s town-centre car parks.

Helen Gibson-West, 60, says a clampdown on small campervans parking in the town discriminates against local people - some of whom rely on the vehicle as their only form of transport.

And the Russell Street resident said the economy will take a hit if Sidmouth gains a perception as a ‘campervan-unfriendly’ town.

But business leaders have expressed fears that the relaxation of the policy could lead to the car parks being used as free ‘alternative campsites’.

Helen said: “Residents, including me, are being unfairly caught in a policy which was never intended to cover them. It is disenfranchising people from using basic amenities, such as the library and pharmacy, within town.

“I totally understand that this should apply to big motorhomes but, until recently, common sense was applied in enforcement of parking rules.”

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has restricted campervan and motorhome parking in all Sidmouth car parks.

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A complete ban is enforced in the central car parks, and motor homes are permitted to use the Manor Road car park in the daytime only.

Helen has multiple health problems and says it is not realistic to expect her to walk across town to get to the vehicle she relies on for hospital trips.

She now has to find space in unrestricted streets to park it - frustrating residents.

“Small campervans are often chosen as the main vehicle of people with age or health-related mobility restrictions, who are not up to manoeuvring a big motor home, or who want a day van with a few comforts to hand,” she said.

“It is such a shame to turn the birthplace of the VW Caravette into a campervan-unfriendly town.”

Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce chairman Steven Kendall-Torry said: “The chamber has not given this campaign due consideration, but initial fears might be that car parks could end up being used as an alternative campsite and vans may conceivably use up more parking spaces.”

EDDC has defended its clampdown and said the policy was introduced in an attempt to find a simple and unambiguous solution to overcome the difficulties of differentiating between a parked campervan and one occupied overnight.

A spokesperson said: “An increasing number of motorhome users had begun to take advantage of our difficulty in enforcing our old ‘no overnight sleeping’ rule and councillors agreed, therefore, to simply prohibit overnight parking of motor caravans in all EDDC car parks.

“We did not intend to penalise those few residents who use a small motor home as their main, or even sole, means of transport and also, unfortunately, do not have their own private parking for that vehicle.

“We will continue to monitor this parking issue but, in the meantime, we feel that this policy is the fairest and most appropriate means of controlling the problem.”