Redcar and Cleveland Council has been consulting over a so-called public spaces protection order (PSPO) in a bid to clampdown on anti-social behaviour and nuisance associated with visitors parking on grass verges and camping in Cowbar Lane, Cowbar.
The council also wants to charge motorists using a previously free car park, while, separately, work has begun on ‘bunding’ - earthworks along Cowbar Lane with the aim of limiting vehicles being left on verges and adjacent grassland.
Last year council chiefs did a U-turn over plans for traffic regulation orders which would have meant no waiting at any time to the north and south of Cowbar Lane, a single lane track off the A174, after a raft of objections.
Campervan and motorhome owners, with whom the location is popular, particularly in the summer months, had complained they were being unfairly penalised.
But further consultation has since taken place over alternative measures in response to a “significant volume” of complaints originating from some residents in the village about litter, visitors openly using fields as toilets and grassland being destroyed by vehicles descending “bumper to bumper” on the outskirts of the village.
While there is no through road for vehicles to Staithes from Cowbar, it is possible to walk between the two locations and access cliff-top views forming part of the Cleveland Way.
Coun Julie Craig, cabinet member for highways and transport, said the council was attempting to carefully balance its responsibility towards residents, while also welcoming visitors and it was a “simple matter of fairness”.
In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said: “With no parking charges in Cowbar at present, visitor numbers have increased greatly and put pressure on the very small car park there.
“This has led to large amounts of campervans staying in the car park and along Cowbar Lane, sometimes for several nights at a time, and there have been multiple reports of antisocial behaviour, including threatening behaviour, aggressive dogs being let off the leash, urinating in public and illegal bonfires.
“This is completely unfair to residents, as would increasing car parking capacity in such a small, quiet area be.
“As a result, we have consulted with locals twice now and will be seeking to initiate parking charges in the existing car park to encourage responsible use. We would like to point out that vehicles will still be able to park overnight.”
She said the bunding being installed was with the agreement of the North York Moors National Park Authority.
Coun Craig said: “The council secured their agreement that it could install bding under ‘permitted development’ planning rules, because the bunding will support the maintenance of the road there.
“Residents were given a commitment that the works would be carried out during winter 2021-22. Some parking may still occur there, but at the very least, we will be limiting the numbers.”
Breaches of the PSPO detected by council enforcement officers could lead to on-the-spot £100 fines being dished out.
Coun Craig explained: “The council’s legal officers are satisfied the prescribed tests for imposing a PSPO can be met, therefore the council [is proceeding] with exploring public support for the proposed order.
“If the order goes ahead, it will allow enforcement officers to issue fines if people are found to be parking or behaving irresponsibly.”
The cabinet member said there was also a proposal that camping was prohibited on open space to the east of the Cowbar visitor car park due to its proximity to residential properties and on the basis that vehicles - except for emergency services and those belonging to residents - were already barred from entering anyway.
She added: “This is a simple matter of fairness. What is fair for residents to have to tolerate and what is fair for those visitors wishing to use and enjoy the area responsibly.”
‘Jumped the gun’
Loftus resident Lee R Holmes claimed the council had “jumped the gun” with the bunding and should have waited until a current consultation over the other associated measures for the village had been completed.
Mr Holmes, who is chairman of the South Tees Conservative Association, said the council had taken a “high handed” approach.
He said: “I am fortunate to be fit enough to walk down to Staithes, as a keen walker, but a lot of people aren’t in a position to do that.
“I am concerned that local residents in Loftus who enjoy a trip to Staithes and previously could drive down there and park in the free car park and have a wander down through Cowbar into Staithes are going to have to pay.
“Also on busy summer days when the car park is full people were able to park on the verge quite safely.
“The council to prevent that have now created a barrier all the way down Cowbar Lane which is potentially going to cause traffic chaos.
“You’ll have cars driving to the car park, finding it is full, having to then turn around on a narrow country lane, made narrower by the bund, and there will be cars coming the other way.
“They seem to be making a bad situation worse and it is an accident waiting to happen.”
Mr Holmes added: “The car park at Cowbar is largely used by local people – people from further afield who want to go to Staithes go to Staithes and park there.
“It’s a shame that they will now have to pay for the simple pleasure of getting the classic view on all the postcards of Staithes laid out before you, or on busy days likely to be not able to park at all.”
Coun Tim Gray, who represents Loftus as an independent on the council, said: “We’ve had meetings and meetings over this, but we were coming to an impasse all the time with the residents.
“I am all for pay parking because of the rubbish we are having to clear out of the place through visitors. The borough has got an asset [from the car park] which could raise funds, when in fact it’s costing us.
“People go into Staithes and spend money with the businesses who pay their rates to Scarborough Borough Council.
”Coun Gray, who said he was receiving a council briefing next week, said Mr Holmes had only become involved with Cowbar when there had already been two consultations over proposed changes in the village.
He said: “Why didn’t Lee Holmes put his head above the parapet two years ago if he was so concerned about this?
“He’s a Conservative and it’s trouble causing.”
People wishing to take part in the latest consultation can give their views online at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HN97KCY
Paper copies of a survey questionnaire can also be collected and returned to the Loftus Library and Community Hub, the Redcar Library and Community Hub and the Redcar and Cleveland Leisure and Community Heart in Ridley Street, Redcar.