Plea to allow campervans into Sidmouth town centre car parks sparks heated debate

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 one-woman campaign to lift the ban on campervans in Sidmouth’s central car parks spiralled into a town-wide debate this week, writes Eleanor Pipe.

Some residents have rallied to support Helen Gibson-West, 60, who is petitioning against what she calls ‘draconian’ measures, which are discriminatory and will hit the local economy hardest.

But her campaign has outraged others, who say obstructive vans cause ‘all sorts of problems’ for people living there.

Since going public with her campaign in the Herald last week, the Russell Street resident said she has received support from campsite owners concerned about the impact to their business if Sidmouth is labelled a ‘campervan unfriendly town’.

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

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A complete ban operates in the central car parks, and motorhomes can only use the Manor Road car park in the daytime.

Anna Thompson lives in Aylesbeare and regularly visits Sidmouth. She says EDDC should reconsider its decision.

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“There are a lot of very angry people around,” she said.

“Everybody spends money in the shops.”

Anna said campervans with sliding doors are ‘fantastic’ for disabled people, many of whom only have one vehicle, and to stop them using their only car is an ‘overreaction’.

“I don’t think it’s what the council intended,” she said.

“If they took a step back they would realise they aren’t being fair to anybody.”

Former van owner Ray Wilson, from Newton Poppleford, agreed.

“Campervan people spend well,” she said.

“Sidmouth is not doing itself any favours by not encouraging them.”

But Hillside Road residents Charles and Betty Warren say vans parking on their road - and in the car parks - cause ‘all sorts of problems’.

Charles, a retired pipeline engineer, said: “Vans are a particular problem because of their size. The thing that started me off was Helen complaining; we are the ones who should be complaining.”

He added: “I would not support the council making parking available for campervans.

“If they allow camper vans overnight, it would lead to them being turned into camp sites.”

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