Folk Week, Sidmouth in 2008 - swamped by CCTV and governed by control orders?

The end of the line for Keeping Sidmouth Special?

It used to be said that Sidmouth was special because it was stuck in a time warp both architecturally and by virtue of its genteel civility. Somehow, the town had managed to escape the ugliness and brutality of modern day Britain. Maybe no longer.

add Honest John - this is britain today.

For a long time, vandalism in the town centre has been an increasing problem. As elsewhere in the UK the underlying cause remains the excessive consumption of alcohol by young people. Rather than address this underlying cause, the town seems to have decided to implement a solution that has failed elsewhere - expensive CCTV cameras. These have a deterrent effect for a short while but do not deter vandals who are too drunk to care they are being filmed - which may be most of them! The criminal and underclasses are also well aware that even if they are caught, the punishments will not fit the crimes - for example, a slap on the wrist or a 'caution' for serious criminal damage. As for professional shop thieves, they are best deterred by covert in-store cameras. Highly visible external street cameras can only show suspects walking down the road with something (but what?) in a large bag. You can't have a DNA sample taken just for walking down a street - not yet anyway. And as soon as they are out of sight of the cameras the thieves will hand their booty to accomplices anyway.

As for trading on the Esplande on Folk Week, the intervention of one of Sidmouth's best known residents may ensure that EDDC are stirred into action. Tom Griffiths runs the deckchair concession along the Esplanade and can often be seen driving a very old Landrover - or indeed cycling merrily along on an even older bicycle. He also runs the commercial car park adjacent to the Bedford. When people such as Tom Griffiths complain, councillors tend to stir from their slumbers - which is more than they usually do when prodded. As is usual in Sidmouth, the parameters of the problem - let alone any proposed solutions - seem confused. Sidmouth used to have a very visible and effective dog warden service. It was disbanded and the work handed to an outside contractor. This was done to save EDDC money. Ever increasing piles of dog dirt are a testimony to the success of the change. Something similar may have happened with pedlar's licences. The three councillors who are quoted below seem collectively to lack any idea of a solution - which may indicate that none of them has bothered to try to understood the problem sufficiently to propose a definite way forward.

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Article in the Sidmouth Herald 7 September 2007

SEAFRONT street vendors, who cash in on the popularity of FolkWeek, should be sited at the Panhandle end of the Esplanade and charged for a daily space.

That was the view of resident Tom Griffiths, who lives and works by the seafront, and who addressed Sidmouth Town Council on Monday following concerns at the number of traders this year.

I’ve been watching the festival for 28 years, in the last three it has started getting out of hand." said Mr Griffiths.

"It started, not when it was taken over from Steve Heap but when EDDC put licensing control of the Esplanade to an outside agency."

Previously, traders would be asked to move if they had no licence. When they realised it only took a 15 pedlar’s licence to sell along the seafront, greater numbers returned. It has got worse and worse. There were more complaints this year than ever from holidaymakers, local residents, traders and musicians.

The meeting heard that Mr Heap had visited and was horrifed at the trading. He suggested approaching the licensing authority to issue a premises licence for the whole of the Esplanade. Mr Griffiths said: Then you can control dancing, musicians and deckchairs. Put the traders on the Panhandle and charge 20 a space per day.

Councillor Graham Liverton said, as district portfolio holder for environment, he had been talking to officers after complaints. He said; "I would like the licensing department, members concerned and police to thrash it out and get it in situ for next year. We don't want a repeat of this."

Councillor Christine Drew, chairman of EDDC licensing committee. said pedlar's licences were dealt with by the police. She said; "I agree it must be regulated. If it is left we will end up with a market on the seafront."

Councillor Tony Reed, festival president, said; "Organisers are concerned about the freeloading going on, on the prom. "EDDC is responsible for the prom, owns it and should have some jurisdiction by which it should manage it. It has got to be managed much better than this."

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