Multi-storey car park suggested for Sidmouth

PLANS should be pursued for the provision of a possible multi-storey car park in Sidmouth, a probe into the health of town centres has recommended.

Findings debated by the district council’s scrutiny committee last night highlight how a shortage of spaces for shoppers to stop off is a “key issue” for the town and the report also promotes a park-and-ride initiative.

A task and finish forum was set up to gauge the vitality of town centres in East Devon.

Conclusions on Sidmouth reveal: “Shops in the town benefit from the custom of a substantial number of reasonably affluent visitors.

“The forum concluded that Sidmouth, although to an extent impacted by the recession, was still a busy town.

“The forum felt a park-and-ride facility would help ease parking difficulties, but could not offer a solution to a suitable location.

“The town centre has retracted slightly as peripheral retail outlets have closed.”

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It adds, a winter attraction would help boost footfall.

The forum has recommended that plans for extra parking close to Sidmouth town centre – possibly involving the building of a multi-storey facility – should be pursued.

It also suggests a review of parking costs should consider cheaper charges – such as having the first half-an-hour free - to encourage more shoppers.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) should also ‘robustly monitor’ charity shops to ensure the permitted proportion of new to second-hand goods for sale, says the forum.

It encouraged bussinesses to work with town councils to develop their vision for the development of shops or activities

It is also recommended EDDC investigates whether empty premises over shops could become homes.

Forum chairman, Councillor Tim Wood, said Sidmouth is experiencing success through its hotels and singles out Fields department store as a ‘magnet’.

He speaks of how town centres are “under increasing pressure from out-of-town trading”.

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