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Director of Ladram Bay Holiday Park attempts intimidation at public meeting

Thursday, 09 November 2017 8 Comments by Claire

A director of Ladram Bay Holiday Park ordered me to be silent and leave a public meeting last night, which was called to discuss traffic concerns associated with his business.

The meeting, which was held in the restaurant of Ladram Bay, was arranged at the behest of myself and Otterton Parish Council, following widespread concern over the level of traffic and size of vehicles travelling to and from the caravan park.

It was attended by around 70 Otterton residents, who were largely exasperated and angry about the problems caused by the continually expanding caravan park.

At the end of the meeting I outlined three key concerns that I had heard in the meeting, in order to seek assurances from the management team. They were on:

• frequent use of retrospective planning applications
• continual expansion (a huge increase in the number of lodges and caravans)
• level of traffic and size of vehicles travelling to and from the park and funding potential mitigating road improvements

But before I could get more than a sentence out, Robin Carter approached me and asked me to stop talking.  He added that I wasn’t welcome and that I should leave.

His co-director, Zoe House, added that the members of the public were there at their invitation (I had just mentioned my letter that was delivered to every house in the village).

The room sort of erupted at this point and there were shouts of:

“Let her speak!” “She’s our representative!” “Leave her alone!”

Robin Carter, whose family also own the controversial Greendale Business Park at Woodbury Salterton, told residents that I wasn’t their representative. Hugo Swire was.  He added that I was not going to “canvass for votes” on their property.

I replied that I was Otterton’s Devon County Councillor and was entitled to speak at a public meeting.

I said I would like to finish my points. But after almost every sentence, Mr Carter interjected with similar remarks - and to more shouting from outraged residents.

One of my points was that if highways officers identified any road improvements whether Ladram Bay might consider contributing funding. Seeing as Robin Carter was standing right in front of me, I directed this question at him.

He then moved so close it felt as though he was actually squaring up to me. Someone called out: “That’s intimidation!” I asked him to move back, which he did but only slightly. He glared angrily and carried on addressing me in a low menacing voice.

Mr Carter said that if I had these points to make I should raise them in a private meeting, not in public and that I should hurry up and finish what I was saying.

I replied that I had already attended a private meeting with his co-director, Zoe House and the parish council in August. That many of these points were already made and surely now was the time, with residents present, to provide these assurances. 

Cue further glaring and, no answers. 

Many residents came up to me afterwards to thank me for standing up for them, and to Mr Carter.
                                                                        ***************************
The meeting started with a PR video set to music, which struck me as entirely the wrong note. It was the sort of video that would have been more appropriate for investors. Then the Ladram representatives read out a list of accolades awarded to the company.

Management team Steven Harper-Smith and Will Tottle who ran the presentation and fielded questions seemed out of their depth at times and as a new member of staff, Mr Harper-Smith was unaware of the continual retrospective planning applications.

People complained they couldn’t hear.  It wasn’t helped by the loud thumping music coming from downstairs, which I asked to be turned down. It wasn’t.

Some of the management team’s points, such as the new £10 fee (increased from £5) for parking on site, which they claimed reduced congestion in the village and was “not a money making scheme” was met with understandable derision.  How can this improve traffic and parking in the village?!

They said that their letters to visitors included a line about driving carefully through the village. That this was “a journey” and the start of a positive relationship with the parish council.

A traffic survey carried out in August by a group associated with the parish council found that around 35 per cent of traffic travelling through Otterton is generated by Ladram Bay. Another survey is imminent.

The incredible claim by the management team that traffic hadn’t increased much over the years and that all roads were busier, was met with loud and understandable frustration.  The park has expanded massively over the years, with hundreds of pitches - and the traffic has increased with it!

I should add here that on my visits to Otterton I have observed a genuine and real problem with the level of traffic on the road and the absolutely enormous caravans and lodges that make their way through the village and residents tell me, knock walls down, erode banks and damage trees and hedges. 

There was acknowledgement of this damage and a promise to repair it. How further damage is prevented is another issue, when the road is simply too narrow for the size of the loads.

Someone asked for a commitment for a maximum number of lodges so the village could have peace of mind on further development. This was supported by clapping.

The management team did not commit to this.

Someone else suggested that the lodges should be brought in by barge instead.

One resident said the number of cars increasing in the village was not related to Ladram Bay. It was due to people having more cars. It was clear that this view was not shared by the vast majority of residents.

Someone else described the traffic situation as “horrendous.”

Then the thorny subject of planning was raised. Ladram Bay is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in a coastal preservation zone. The landscape is highly protected under a number of strong policies. Yet planning consent keeps being given for expansion.  And many of these planning applications are submitted after the building has taken place.

One resident spoke on this in a very informed way about this. He asked why the dog walking area was now a car park and said there was no point in objecting to the planning application as the trees had already been removed. The team were vague on this but the new general manager did say that in future what they did would comply with planning consent.

Parish council chairman, John Fudge told the meeting that the parish council had objected to the application but it was approved by East Devon District Council’s planning committee.

This started a bit of a debate in the room and how people are not notified about planning applications. And why there is one rule for them and another for Ladram Bay.

An attendee asked the Ladram Bay owners to liaise with the village and said that the park should “have the decency to talk to the village” over planning applications and it was no surprise that there was “distrust and a complete lack of confidence” in the business by residents.

A resident of Ladram Road said she had been hit twice by vehicles and there needed to be speed deterrents. The management team agreed.

A resident of Fore Street said that she takes her life in her hands every time she leaves her house and that traffic is travelling too fast.

Someone replied that community speedwatch found few cars travelling over 30mph but that was too fast anyway. That the village needed a 20mph zone. 

(This is something I have been investigating and will continue to do so).

John Fudge, parish council chairman spoke at the end of the meeting to thank people for coming. He said the parish council would work with Ladram Bay to improve the situation. He said he believed there was a genuine desire on the part of the caravan park to improve things.

Directors, Robin Carter and Zoe House remained silent throughout the meeting. Until I spoke at the end.

What do I think of Robin Carter’s behaviour? I think it was aggressive and an (unsuccessful) attempt at intimidation. It was totally inappropriate and completely unnecessary. I am a key representative of Otterton people and I am entitled to attend and speak at a public meeting.

A thriving business on the edge of Otterton is a positive thing. Otterton Mill is also a successful local business. Yet I haven’t heard a single complaint about Otterton Mill. All the complaints I have heard have been about the attitude of the senior management team at Ladram Bay, their lack of consideration and the effect that their continual expansion plans have on the village. 

I am hoping that this will be the start of a more positive and considerate relationship between residents and Ladram Bay. Local people deserve better.

Comments

1. At 08:44 am on 09th Nov Malcolm Lee wrote:

Good for you Claire. Standing up to a bully and keeping him silent is ideal traning for your next round with Huge Swines.

2. At 08:51 am on 09th Nov Geoff Myring wrote:

Well done Claire. It seems to be all about profit over people. I have also complained to EDDC on many occasions about the speed and size of traffic along Exmouth Road, it falls on deaf ears. It seems that nothing will be done until there’s a fatality

3. At 03:18 pm on 09th Nov Sandra Semple wrote:

So bullying and harrassment is alive and well in East Devon - no surprise.  Can you imagine how EDDC would treat householders if they doubled the size of their house and then added a granny annex and then changed their double garage into 2 bedsits and later applied for retrospective planning permission!  Would their MP stick up for them and schmooze with them?  Would EDDC roll over?  So what’s different about the Carters?

4. At 06:06 pm on 09th Nov Leanne Winter wrote:

Thank you for attending the meeting, having a positive representation of the village is a relief. The groundswell of public opinion in the village against Ladram Bay has increased year on year. The utter disrespect the holiday park has for its neighbours and the environment is criminal. We feel lucky to have you on board

5. At 08:01 pm on 09th Nov Michael Reade wrote:

Hi Claire, thank you for this article. I really appreciate your passion and dedication for the local community. I supported you in the recent election and want to continue to do so, and so I really hope this post does not fall on deaf ears.

I am a resident of the local area, and have long seen locals’ disarray with the modern world making its way toward us in the form of supermarket deliveries and increasing numbers of new builds. I recognise that many locals also seem to project their uncertainty and fears of global modernisation onto Ladram Bay. This is where my concerns lie. I do believe that there is room for scepticism over Ladram Bay’s future development however I think it is incredibly important that we work with the owners in harmony rather than villainising the Carter family and using the park as a scapegoat for more general and inevitable changes as we move further into the twenty-first century.

I do feel also that this article reads as a sort of smear campaign, and I am interested to hear how you think articles like this benefit the community? My concerns are more that the park may fall into the hands of a larger corporation which would entirely cut its ties with the local community. This meeting was an opportunity for the community to build stronger ties with Ladram Bay, and I can’t help but feel like you have only created an uncomfortable hostility between the two which is unconstructive and potentially a setback in the relationship. It is common courtesy to contact hosts in advance when one would like to speak publicly, and I do feel that on private property under invitation it is inappropriate and impudent to disregard instruction. Having said that, attempts at intimidation are not pleasant, and I do hope it will not discourage you from speaking publicly again, perhaps under invitation next time!

Please Claire, if you consider yourself a voice for the people, I think it’s really important that you work with local businesses and not against them, I’m sure then they’ll be more willing to listen and take council with you!

6. At 08:45 pm on 09th Nov Rachel Conti wrote:

East Devon residents are lucky to have you as their representative Claire. Well done for standing your ground and refusing to be intimidated!

7. At 10:10 am on 10th Nov Maggie Seager wrote:

I would like to thank Claire Wright for attending the meeting at Ladram Bay Wednesday night I know of course that she will really understand the issues of the traffic and parking congestion in Otterton living in Ottery St Mary, as I know pretty much every Devon village and Town now experiences.  I am also grateful that as my representative regardless of my personal views or political persuasion that you will represent me as resident of Otterton and also put forward an account of my views as said resident even if they do not match your own, I know being the professional independent councillor that you are will therefore support me when I was saddened to note that some of the minute’s taken by you and then subsequently reported as an account of the meeting seem to be missing some feedback and points raised from other Otterton residents. I am confident that this was just a slight oversight I do know how busy everyone is and how busy life is. So in my public duty to my fellow Ottertonians whom I know all share an overriding passion for our beautiful village I thought I would save you the trouble and record the other points raised at the meeting and this will hopefully help the people who were unable to attend due to work and family commitments so that a well balanced and all round view of the issues are available.
Population
In 1986 – 500, further to be increased by the approved planning for 15 new homes next to North Star (yet to be completed) a direct quote from Councillor Tony Bennett several years ago “Because that road is used as a sort of short cut between Exmouth and Sidmouth, at rush hour the traffic is extremely heavy.”
The above is a matter of public record and was accepted 30 years ago that the through traffic was a severe problem even then.  To quote your figures from the recent traffic survey 35% were en- route to Ladram, which therefore means that the other 65% was through traffic, Otterton has historically been used as a rat run for the commute to Sidmouth.
2016 – 715 and growing! Also to be taken into consideration in terms of population figures is quite simple, 20/30 years ago residents had larger families, now families are smaller but there are more, hence more vehicles. 
11.9 % of the houses in Otterton are private rentals the majority being “Holiday Lets”
Older Businesses such as the Garage, the Bakery, The Butchers, The Post Office and the public Toilets all changed from Business Use to Residential, more parking required.
In 2011 there were 23 homes in Otterton without a vehicle, 107 households with 1 car/van, 117 with 2 cars/vans , 26 with 3 cars/vans and 6 households with 4 or more cars/vans, there are no further updated figures but based upon the fact that that was 6 years ago I am sure you can do the math. 
Most households have more than one vehicle some 3 or 4 myself included compared to 20/30 years ago. Personal vehicles are larger e.g 4 x 4, camper vans, horse boxes and agricultural vehicles are larger
Online grocery/retail shopping more popular than 20/30 years ago therefore bringing in more traffic. In 1986 only 20% of villagers owned a computer.  Fact, more than 50% of the population now shop online which increase delivery vehicles.  There are more recycling vehicles, more large oil/heating delivery vehicles as opposed to smaller coal trucks of years ago.  There are food delivery services. Larger delivery vehicles to local business and Food Delivery Services (takeaway). A lot of Otterton residents rely on the delivery of their grocery shopping.
The Old Vicarage established 1986 with 24 rooms for occupants brought both residents and their families visiting as well as staff and service providers to the business, again also responsible for providing work and income to the area. 
Buses through the village 1986 was 8 per day in 2017 there are 10 per day, although this is not a major increase in terms of physical vehicles through the village the cost of travel has increased significantly since 1986 (it was £1.50 return to Exmouth/Sidmouth, it’s now £8.00) which has seen a decrease in users despite the local governments best efforts to promote public transport, with more and more residents relying on their own vehicles.
The Kings Arms has rooms now and more eating areas which they didn’t have 20 years ago that’s increased footfall.
Ladram Bay had 237 Units in 1986, in 2017 it now has approx. 500 which is a 50% increase in 30 years
Otterton Mill has 19,000 visitors in 1986, in 2017 I am sure is a lot more however I have been unable to obtain this information.
Population of Otterton C of E School has increased, due to it’s great results it encourages children from neighbouring villages. 
Beavers return has increased footfall to the village
Personal views aside of the effect local businesses have had on the traffic and parking congestion has all been affected by the points made above, points that cannot simply be swept under the carpet as they are unfortunately a fact of modern life and as we are fortunate and have indeed chosen to live in a beautiful Devon village it brings with it for sure, disadvantages. The local businesses’ have overall a very positive effect on our economy and employment and the support of lots of other local business that supply them. I am however mindful that the legitimate concerns raised by most Otterton residents are felt by us all, both young and old alike. We all want a safer village with better parking and much less congestion on that I am confident we can all agree.
I for one would like to see all of the local businesses involved along with Otterton residents and the parish council to work together in a calm, professional and respectful manner and behave like the educated adults that we are and really focus on trying to find a compromise and I mean compromise from all parties involved and with a healthy exchange of views, but all working towards one GOAL and then hopefully we can come up with a resolution. 
So lets focus on the future and work together as a community and try and make 2018 a positive year for all the residents and visitors to Otterton. 

 

8. At 08:07 pm on 11th Nov Ian woolger wrote:

Thankyou Claire, for having the strength to stand up to this level of bullying.  Whilst none of us think that investment and an increase in business does not help provide jobs and opportunities locally. It is fine as long as people work within the framework of planning legislation. Every week we see local landowners riding roughshod over planning and treating the local population with contempt. Otterton is a wonderful little village, it was never designed to cope with the massive influx of vehicles it currently sees yet it seems the quest for cash, outweighs the needs of local residents. Keep up the good work.

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