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Pembrokeshire’s trial scheme for overnight campervan parking ‘under threat’

Townsmoor car park, Narberth (Pic: Google Street View)

A PROPOSED trial scheme for overnight motorhome and campervan parking at some of Pembrokeshire’s car parks could be under threat after it was overwhelmingly rejected at a special meeting.

Members of the council’s Cabinet, at their February meeting, backed a proposal for a trial run ‘Pembs Stop’ scheme at four car parks: North Beach, Tenby; Goodwick Moor, Goodwick; Townsmoor, Narberth; and Western Way, Pembroke Dock.

The ‘Pembs Stop’ trial areas, available for up to two nights, would operate year-round at £10 a night for a trial 18-month period, expected to start in July.

It was stressed the scheme was not intended to create ‘campsites,’ with a list of criteria including no LPG bottles or furniture to be stored outside, and no camping waste or recycling points being provided.

The planned trial even received national coverage, with a discussion on a phone-in programme on BBC Radio Wales.

But local tourism businesses have said the proposals will harm them.

One was Phil Davies, who owns Hungerford Farm Touring Caravan and Motorhome Park near Loveston, who said: “Should the 18-month trial go ahead the drop in business will cause job losses within the industry as many businesses could not survive even a temporary drop in trade.”

The Pembs Stop initiative would also place an additional burden on existing services, with many using public toilets to dispose of waste in order to travel empty to save fuel, Mr Davies said.

Councillor Di Clements and Phil Davies of Hungerford Farm Touring Caravan and Motorhome Park (Pic: Di Clements)

Concerns about the trial have also been raised by the official tourism industry group for Pembrokeshire, Visit Pembrokeshire.

Conservative Group leader on the councli, Cllr Di Clements successfully called for the matter be sent to the council’s April 9 policy and pre-decision scrutiny committee for further discussion, later submitting a motion recommending Cabinet does not progress with the scheme.

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The pilots saw the unusual situation of an “unholy coalition” at the meeting, where Labour, Conservative, and Plaid Cymru members were against the trials.

One committee member was Narberth councillor Marc Tierney (Labour), who said -to say the least – there had been “a mixed response” to the proposals in his town, adding ongoing issues about the capacity of the Townsmoor car park making the pilot unfeasible there.

“As local member for Narberth Urban, I do ask that Narberth be removed from this pilot,” he requested.

County Councillor Marc Tierney (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Tenby’s Cllr Michael Williams (Plaid Cymru) was also against the pilot in his town, saying: “I really don’t see the need for a public body to set up a facility in contradiction of business interests,” adding: “I would have thought there should be a consultation with even a pilot area, it’s a rare coalition, Conservative, Labour, and even Plaid, in agreement on this; certainly not in my ward, I feel very strongly it would be a backwards step.”

Pembrokeshire county councillor Michael Williams (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Strong opposition to the trials came from independent councillor Viv Stoddart, who warned that even a trial may lead to the overnight parking becoming “embedded” and difficult to undo.

“The tourism business is in a fragile state, how many of these small operators will survive? They have invested in their businesses, and here we are competing with them not on a level playing field.

“If we want to support the local economy, support the local operators; the tourism industry needs you, and the demand can be filled by local sites.

“I would personally like the whole project to go back to Cabinet; this is a mistaken project, it’s absolutely wrong, and we should reject this.”

Cllr Vivien Stoddart (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

One voice of support was Cllr Pat Davies, who felt the trial could work in her own area of Goodwick.

Cllr Aled Thomas (Conservative) said: “It shocks me to join the ‘unholy coalition,’ we have completely forgotten what the point of local government is; here we are competing with local business which we are supporting by other means.

“What next? Will we invest in a nightclub in Haverfordwest?”

Cllr Aled Thomas (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services Cllr Rhys Sinnett said the trial wasn’t about income-generation or competition, but about “making people feel welcome in our county rather than being pushed where we want them to go”.

He suggested a “middle ground” of potentially removing the Narberth and Tenby parts of the trial in favour of the other two, and, following supportive views from fellow Milford Haven councillor, and motorhome owner, Cllr Alan Dennison, looking into Milford as a possible third.

Cllr Alan Dennison (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Cllr Clements’ call for the mater to be referred back to Cabinet, with a recommendation it is not progressed, was supported by eight votes to three.

The matter will now be considered by Cabinet at a future date.