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in Dartmouth cannot afford that. West Dart may increase the popu- lation but it may only be a transient population. There is a new propos- al currently for New Barn Farm out at Norton, which is much smaller, but is heavily involved in the Guin- ness Trust, which has been respon- sible for much of the development at Townstal. They will offer a 50/50 shared ownership scheme, provide some rental accommodation and sheltered housing for about 40 to 50 people.


Is there enough demand from people wanting to live and work in Dartmouth? Cllr Lyon: Not without the jobs to go with the houses. Cllr Cooke: The proposed devel- opment at Noss may help. One of the things discussed by the town council in the past is trying to at- tract data industries to Dartmouth because they can operate any- where. The difficulty is, the council can have the ideas but putting them into practice requires money and that’s the one thing this council doesn’t have in any quantity.


Dartmouth is a particularly expensive place for businesses in terms of rents and rates. Does this have a knock-on effect in terms of wages? Cllr Cooke: Dartmouth Town Council has a collection of wonder- ful buildings, which are all Grade I listed and cost a fortune to main- tain. We keep our rents as low as feasible. There are other landlords in the town who do not do that. Some properties can only really be taken over by big chains that have lots of money. This crowds out the small independent shops, which make the place more interesting and attractive to visitors.


So is the way forward for Dartmouth to have more coffee shops and restaurants? Cllr Cooke: The service industries do relatively well but only on a highly seasonal basis. It’s slightly worrying if the whole of your trade relies on just six months of the year and there is nothing for the rest.


You get ‘Salcombised’. We do have some very successful independent shops, such as Pepper’s World Foods and Flamingos in Duke Street, and they do well because they operate in their own niche market.


Is there consensus in Dartmouth as to how the town ought to look in another ten years time? Cllr Lyon: Many years ago I got involved in trying to address the concerns about parking in the town. We discussed it with the district and county councils and both said they had the finance and will to help resolve these problems. I held a public meeting about it but Dartmouth came back with six voices. We can’t do six different things.


“The fact it’s an


attractive place is a strength but in some ways it’s also its weakness.”


Does this suggest a lack of leadership in the town? Cllr Cooke: Businesses want the whole thing to be put into two hour slots so you can come, park the car, spend lots of money and drive away with all the things you’ve bought. The residents want 24 hour parking to leave their cars out all over the place. Hence they both have completely opposite requirements. It doesn’t surprise me you can’t get people to agree on things. I don’t think leadership, apart from dictatorship, would have any real affect.


Are there any significant threats to Dartmouth’s economic and social future? Cllr Lyon: I’ve met quite a few people who have haven’t stayed because they say it’s like living on an island. I like the island personal- ly but it doesn’t suit some people. Cllr Cooke: The people who come


to live here like the aspect it is fairly off the beaten track, that is part of its attractiveness – that is if you are not an 18-year-old looking for a job. We need to maintain an active community and an active economy outside of the summer months. I don’t think we’ve been very successful at that.


Over the last 10 years we have seen the growth of successful festivals in the town, such as the music festival and the food festival. Conversely, are we now seeing the decline of the regatta? Cllr Cooke: In my opinion the regatta got totally overblown and it was more than Dartmouth could cope with. In 2007, there was complete gridlock. I think something like 100,000 people came in that weekend. It was seriously unpleasant. Geographically we cannot really run the air display to match the Shoreham requirements. We need to return to what it originally was, which was a water-based event.


Do you think the community of Dartmouth is as strong as it always was? Cllr Cooke: Yes. The community is run by volunteers. They look after the gardens, join the fire service, run the lifeboat and operate Dartmouth Caring. One of the advantages of having an elderly population is they have the time to volunteer.


You both rate the River Dart as the town’s main attraction. Do we need to protect this asset and make more of it? Cllr Cooke: Yes but without spoiling it. Demand for space for boats on the river is high but having bigger marinas is not particularly desirable. We need to encourage young people to get involved in sailing, rowing, paddle boarding and swimming.


Has it been rewarding being town councillors and mayors? Cllr Cooke: It has not been easy but when one has achieved things it certainly feels rewarding. •


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