THE controversial new ticket machines and cameras at Kilve Beach car park – which have left unsuspecting visitors with £100 fines – are set to stay in place.
The East Quantoxhead Estate, which runs the car park, made the changes without planning permission.
But Somerset West and Taunton council has now agreed to grant retrospective permission for the changes – despite numerous councillors arguing it would ruin the local area.
The car park, which is owned by the estate, lies between Kilve Beach and St Mary’s Church in the village, located at the northern tip of the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
In addition to the new ticket machines and camera, the estate also extended the car park using grassed areas, increasing the number of parking spaces from 48 to 67.
Bruce Eyley, vice-chairman of Kilve Parish Council, told a virtual meeting of the council’s planning committee that the changes seemed to be designed to “trap” visitors who stayed too long.
He said: “The un-consented works carried out by the estate removed verge protection that was grant-funded by Natural England.
“The car park extension was constructed with no planning permission, consultation or survey of the need for more parking spaces.
“The erection of a number plate recognition camera, on a mast with anti-climbing spikes, appears to have been positioned to trap unsuspecting visitors, with the high likelihood of £100 penalties.”
Mr Eyley added that the erection of this camera had “resulted in a tirade of misery and anger” on social media – with numerous visitors leaving negative reviews on the beach’s TripAdvisor page.
The most recent review, posted on Tuesday, April 27, gave the beach one star out of five, stating: “This ruined our day out and will tell everyone we know not to bother returning.”
He said: “A balance has to be struck with the signs on-site between providing sufficient notice of the parking charges and any potential harm [to the natural landscape].”
Cllr Chris Morgan (whose Quantock Vale ward includes the site) said: “I have my grandparents and my father buried in Kilve church, which makes me local.
“It’s very difficult at the moment to park outside the church to go into the churchyard, because of all the cars that are parked there to avoid the £100 fine.
“The toilets, although locked, are still used. At the back of the toilets, near the stream, people are defecating and urinating – it’s truly disgusting. Where the money from the car park going?”
Cllr Mark Lithgow, however, argued there was no reason in planning law why retrospective permission should not be granted.
He said: “I do suspect that people speaking against this have been doing so from an emotional point of view, rather than an objective one. They’re not changing the car park, they’re improving it as it is.
“It’s a private car park, and it’s not for us to say how the owner should spend that money.”
A motion to refuse permission for the changes was defeated by three votes to five, with two abstentions.
The committee then voted to grant retrospective permission by five votes to three (again with two abstentions), meaning the changes can remain in place.