Letters in the Sidmouth Herald, 28
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
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
DR STEPHEN J WOZNIAK
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.
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'.
back to top of section
back to home page