Letters in the Sidmouth Herald, 28 August 2015

Caravanners: get it right, Sidmouth

I am not surprised that a few residents of Bickwell Valley dislike their road being turned into an impromptu campsite during Folk Week. But I am surprised that apparently nothing can be done about it without specific legislation.

It has long been 'assumed' by caravanners that overnight stays on the public highway (so called 'wild camping') are disallowed, and similarly for motorhomes. This is despite the fact that there are many roads where no 'obstruction' of the highway could reasonably be deemed to occur if only because dozens of vehicles park there at other times and/or free passage is still easily possible.

The Police are not empowered to discriminate against caravanners as a social subgroup. If they tried to do so they could expect these days to find their abuse of authority videoed and placed on the internet. Many people who live near rail stations have to endure parking outside their homes all week! The only legal requirement for parking any caravan or other trailer on the road at night is that it has suitable lighting, and does not cause an undue obstruction. Section 58a of the Terrorism Act makes it as offence to photograph or video a Police Officer - but only if you are a terrorist or intent on aiding one. So all other filming is allowed. The Metropolitan Police website has specific guidance on these points.

FolkWeek attracts a huge internet following. All developments are keenly watched and debated. If indeed by-law legislation is needed to prevent sporadic overnight camping on the public highway then the likely consequence would be that all roads in Sidmouth not covered by the specific by-law would be confirmed as 'fair game' - and likely elsewhere in the UK too!

So either the whole of Sidmouth must be covered with a plethora of new road signage or all residents have to accept what seems to be the existing law - that casual overnight sleeping in vehicles on the public highway cannot be prevented. During FolkWeek a few street traders slept in their large vans parked along the Esplanade.

I suggest Sidmouth 'gets it right' - whatever happens is likely to be widely reported and discussed.


No reason behaviour should be tolerated

I was pleased to-read in last week's Herald that County Hall chiefs are 'putting the wheels in motion' to see if a bylaw could be used to put an end to street-side camping. This has been put in motion by Councillor Stuart Hughes, who was responding to concerns raised by residents of the Bickwell Valley. We have been raising concerns for many years and I thank Cllr Hughes for putting our case forward.

We enjoy the festival and accept that living in a seaside town, where parking is at a premium, visitors will park on roadsides. The vast majority of people park their vehicles in a considerate way causing minimal disruption to local residents. It is the few who treat the road like a campsite that cause the problem by carrying out their ablutions, cooking and drying laundry in the open. The vans used by these people are not fitted with toilets, so one can imagine what else goes on.

We understand that a balance needs to be struck between residents, commuters and visitors - but as there is no shortage of campsites during FolkWeek or at other times for that matter, we see no reason 'why this sort of behaviour should be tolerated.

Via email

Don't let festival become 'anything goes week'

I thoroughly enjoyed Sidmouth FolkWeek, but I would like to add my voice too those who are concerned about the use of amplification by buskers. I was particularly worried about two young men who performed on the seafront on the last day of FolkWeek. One of the men was playing an electric guitar very loud, while his friend was thrashing a full set of drums.

The music these two were playing was rock music. It could not be called folk music by any stretch of the imagination.

Please don't let your wonderful FolkWeek become 'Sidmouth anything goes week'.

Eastfield, Northampton

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