Council faces 'dilemma' over ‘freeloading’ campervan and motorhome users
How to solve a problem like campervans, or motorhomes for that matter?
That’s something some councillors and residents have been asking in Redcar and Cleveland and a solution to keep everyone happy both in terms of discouraging a minority of owners who abuse any privileges and providing adequate provision for the rest has yet to be properly found.
Twelve months ago councillors agreed a motion intended to introduce overnight parking restrictions where campervans and motorhomes – typically campervans’ larger, longer big brother – were being kept overnight amid concern some were “taking the mick” by freely downing anchors for days and also abusing the environment by leaving behind litter and waste.
Councillor Philip Thomson said some residential areas in Saltburn had become “in effect a caravan park with all the downsides associated with that and that is what we wish to address”.
The then borough mayor, Councillor Stuart Smith, also weighed into the debate, describing some parking as a “disgrace”, blocking pavements and also claiming he counted 45 such vehicles at one time on Marine Parade with rubbish being deposited “anywhere they can find”.
Councillor Alec Brown – now the local authority’s leader – said it was a “groundhog day issue” and it was a shame that a borough which relies on tourism did not have better facilities for people.
He said: “Broadly speaking we do support this motion, but with the caveat that we don’t appear to the wider world that we are closed off to visitors.”
Coun Thomson stressed his motion made the point that the council should be welcoming to all visitors, whatever their mode of transport.
He said at the time: “It isn’t just about saying you can’t park here.
“We need a disincentive through legislation and an incentive through adequate and appropriate provision, of which there is not.”
The motion remains a work in progress with two troublesome locations subsequently being identified, Marine Parade and The Stray in Redcar, with the council issuing a traffic regulation order to bring in a four-hour limit on parking at the latter where one councillor complained about vehicles staying for “months”.
Marine Parade, meanwhile, was recently the subject of a protest gathering by some locals because of council plans for the addition of 125 net car parking spaces, which will see bays remodelled and turned at right angles, and the road widened, narrowing the top promenade.
Some motorhome owners fear this, along with new double yellow lines on the town side of Marine Parade, will mean less space for their vehicles and more difficulty in manoeuvring them in and out of parking spots.
A similar traffic regulation order will be required as part of the changes and could be drafted so as to accommodate restrictions on campervans and motorhomes, while a transport masterplan for Saltburn has also considered the issue.
Two years ago the council performed a U-turn over plans for a traffic regulation order intended to restrict campervan and motorhome parking on Cowbar Lane, a single lane track off the A174 close to Staithes, in response to complaints from local residents about litter and the dumping of chemical toilets, along with verges being destroyed by “bumper to bumper” vehicles.
After a raft of objections a decision was taken not to proceed, but instead different legislation was used in the form of a public spaces protection order intended to clampdown on anti-social behaviour, which included offences around fires, urination and defecation.
Coun Thomson said the transport masterplan for Saltburn made no specific recommendation to prevent overnight motorhome parking and progress with his motion had been “lamentably slow”.
He said: “Whitby and Scarborough have been doing this since 2012 and I want to emulate them.
“We have got to provide adequate provision for motorhomes throughout the borough, while at the same time managing the small minority who abuse the environment.
“The concern that residents have is that a minority of people abuse the facilities they come to enjoy so there is human waste disposed of in certain instances and an accumulation of litter.”
Coun Thomson has encouraged campervan and motorhome owners to use the Cat Nab car park at the bottom of Saltburn bank instead of Marine Parade, which, while away from residential areas, has specific provision for free overnight parking, 24 hour CCTV, toilets, a waste disposal unit and a supply of clean, fresh water.
But some visitors have told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) they would be unlikely to use Cat Nab since it lacks the atmosphere of Marine Parade, where informal gatherings are often held, along with the elevated views of the sea.
Nonetheless, Coun Thomson said this was his favoured location in the town for motorists in this category and he had suggested adding a charge so further facilities could be maintained at the location.
He said: “You already have a really good car park, which is immediately beside the sea, and is safe and well presented.
“On any weekend over the summer we can have somewhere between 30 and 40 motorhomes camped overnight.”
Saltburn resident Gemma Booth, who has organised opposition to plans to increase the number of car parking spaces on Marine Parade, said she had spoken to campervan owners to gauge opinion on how they can be best catered for.
She questioned whether campervanners would go elsewhere and any potential overnight parking restrictions on the parade.
She said: “They are not people who want to be sat in a car park, they are coming for the view and the sense of community we have on the top promenade and the way they are welcomed by the various people who use it. If we lose the camper vans how much revenue would we lose in the town?”
However, one resident, who lives in Saltburn’s so-called ‘jewel’ streets, which lead off Marine Parade, said he would be glad to see the back of the vehicles.
The resident, who wished to stay anonymous, said campervan users were “freeloading”, regularly parking along the route for free and “filling up” the jewel streets with their rubbish.
One such motorist who would dispute such labels is Davey Smith, from Scruton, North Yorkshire, who frequently travels up to Saltburn to spend time on Marine Parade.
He said: “I surf in Saltburn, I have friends there, and while I don’t have an actual campervan, I stay in my work van, which has been converted inside to make it liveable. Yes Marine Parade is a free area, but it has the best views and there are people passing on a daily basis who you can sit and have a conversation with.
“It is such a welcoming place Saltburn with a culture and a beautiful beach vibe about it, and you’ll see every different age group on the promenade. As for freeloading, what’s that about – I spent £250 in four days there, that goes into the local economy. You have got your day trippers that take packed lunches and go to the beach and don’t spend a penny.”
Mr Smith, 46, said the council’s planned changes had caused a “real stir”.
“There have been campervans for years on Marine Parade,” he said. “My view is they should make the other town side just residents only, the promenade can stay as it is. There has got to be some kind of compromise.”
‘They adore the place’
Mr Smith said he understood complaints from the town facing side of Marine Parade about permanently parked up vehicles blocking the view and litter.
But he said: “I can’t speak for everybody, but there’s a campervan community and they adore the place. They are clean, don’t leave rubbish – there is not enough bins on the parade anyway – but if there was more they would be used, they look after the place. Most of what I’ve seen of the big motorhomes also, they are fully equipped, they park up and don’t disturb anybody.”
Mr Smith, who is a self-employed carpet cleaner, added: “What does the council want – maybe add a weight or height restrictions on the vehicles? It’s only really six weeks in the year when these problems arise. I travel to visit Saltburn because it’s a great atmosphere and a great place to be, and I will spend my money there.
“It’s special, it really is. If campervan owners have to pay a premium for a facility away from the parade, there’s no romance or reason to be there, and it just makes everything more complicated. It’s cancel culture, they are taking everything away from us.”
In a statement, Councillor Carl Quartermain, the cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “If visitors have campervans, we have dedicated spaces in Cat Nab car park to accommodate larger vehicles. Saltburn is an incredible place, which is why it attracts so many people year on year. “But we must do our best to strike a balance between meeting the needs of residents, businesses and tourists.”
Referring to Coun Thomson’s motion, he said: “As part of the motion raised officers at the council consulted with elected members to advise of potential issues with motor homes/camper vans in their wards. Seven members responded identifying five potential locations across the borough.
“Only two of these locations, The Stray and Marine Parade, warranted further investigation as the others were either not on council land or didn’t highlight any ongoing or detrimental issues. In relation to The Stray the council has recently issued a transport regulation order to bring in a four-hour limit on parking which will reduce the ability of camper vans to park for extended periods.
“Marine Parade is currently being looked at as part of the Saltburn transport masterplan and the parking team have committed to look at the options around the transport regulation order that would help alleviate some of the reported issues around camper vans.
“The intention would be to implement any restrictions by April 2024, pending all the correct processes are carried out.”