Letter from John Dowell, from the Sidmouth Herald, 30 May 2008.

The letter reproduced below tells us a lot about the fitness for purpose of both local councils and the police, more of which later.

By designating the Esplanade a 'consent street', EDDC will be able to claw back a little money from street traders. They can use it to pay their wholly inadequate staff for walking around in the sunshine and doing next to nothing.

The assertion (admission?) that the police (and by implication EDDC) 'are effectively powerless to do anything' about a collection of fly-by-night traders selling (often) shoddy goods and wilfully obstructing free passage of a substantial part of the public highway is simply pathetic. Indeed, it surely cannot be correct. If the councils and the police (acting out their politically correct roles as 'partners in community policing') actually wanted to do something effective they could easily do so. It is ludicrous to accept that just because you can't deal with all traders at once you cannot deal with any of them. Is the same policy applied to use of illegal drugs in the UK?

Police in the UK can and do routinely arrest people for nebulous and ill-defined offences such as 'obstructing the highway' or 'breach of the peace' when they are peacefully protesting about some cause or other and causing far less of an obstruction than these traders. Indeed, often the only people causing an actual breach of the peace and using or threatening to use violence are the police themselves. Local magistrates generally find environmental protesters guilty without even listening to their case. There is rarely a need to charge and arrest every protester. The police just pick on someone they don't like the look of, and hope the rest of the assembled rabble will take the hint.

So what's the problem in Sidmouth?

In similar vein, it is about time that our various multi-layered and increasingly expensive councils (Sidmouth Town Council, EDDC) did something effective about the amount of litter thrown around on the beach and throughout the town in folk week. Much (most?) of this does not originate (it is to be hoped) from folkies but from the great unwashed of the lower class tourist trade that Sidmouth now attracts in such large numbers.

Elsewhere in the UK, fixed penalty fines are handed out for inadvertently dropping a single chip. In Sidmouth you can throw dozens to seagulls and then discard the whole box with (so it would appear) no fear of being fined. You can also litter the beach with dozens of broken glass bottles and drinks cans of all shapes and colours and no-one from the councils or the police hear or see anything. The town is beginning to look a real mess (and not only in folk week) and it is time for some proper enforcement - if only so that Sidmouth Town Council can claim some degree of environmental action. Much of the rubbish discarded in seaside towns ends up in the oceans where it kills wildlife. In coastal areas especially therefore, laws on littering should be properly enforced - but without EDDC staff becoming overtly moronic. The prime offenders on the beach and outside the Marine Bar should be targeted - picking on some relatively harmless person who drops a piece of tomato or an apple core elsewhere in the town would lead to condemnation.

"Town has to compromise with the street traders"

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