Ferry-riding residents may be offered double financial help
HARD-HIT Dartmouth could be in for a double dose of help aimed at boosting the town's business and giving its ferry-riding locals a better deal.
The district council is currently looking at putting up ferry fares for visitors so it can cut the cost of its concessionary tickets – mainly used by residents and businesses.
At the same time, it is considering offering townspeople and surrounding villagers a 'free ride' into the town centre on the town's park and ride buses.
Dartmouth district councillor Melvyn Stone pointed out that the town is suffering from rocketing business rates, the recession and the problems caused by the town centre fire which gutted the shops, office and flats complex in Fairfax Place.
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"The economy of the town is at its lowest level for a long time," he told members of the South Hams Council prosperity development group.
The councillors are recommending the cost of taking a car across the Dart on the council-owned Lower Ferry should go up from £3.30 to £4 –– still 50p lower than the Higher Ferry competitors.
At the same time they want to lop £1 off the current cost of blocks of concessionary tickets for foot passengers, cars, vans, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.
At the same meeting the councillors also voted in favour of giving everyone who currently has a £20 parking permit the right to use the park and ride buses in Dartmouth free of charge.
Initially the councillors had planned to limit the parking bonus to the same times as the district-wide permit which allows people to park in car parks for free from 4pm in the evening until 10pm the next day.
But they ended up agreeing the free park and ride service should be available to permit holders for the whole day – from 8am to 11.30pm.
Councillors heard the drop in concessionary ferry fares will help mainly local people with the cut being subsidised by the rise in the car crossing charge mainly paid by tourists – and still increase the ferry income by more than £30,000 a year.
The free park-and-ride bonus is aimed at encouraging people from the town itself and from the surrounding villages to used the town centre to shop – rather than just driving to the Sainsbury's or Lidl supermarkets on the outskirts of Dartmouth and then driving home again without going into the town.
"Dartmouth has a serious parking problem and has fewer car parks than any other town in the South Hams," said district and county councillor Jonathan Hawkins.
"I feel we should do all that we can to ensure that our villagers are able to come into Dartmouth to park and use the local shops."
Dartmouth district councillor Francis Hawke said of the ferry fares: "Clearly the concessionary tickets are a benefit to our community."
He added that even though the cost of crossing the river on the Lower Ferry would go up to £4 for a car, people still prefer to use the 'iconic, historic' Lower Ferry rather than the Higher Ferry.
Both changes are recommendations and will still have to be approved by the council executive.