Town's annual meeting: Dr's Pond, RideLondon, parking issues

A large group of people line up on the edge of Doctors Pond in Great Dunmow, Essex - They are fishing

A fishing event at Great Dunmow's Doctor's Pond - Credit: Roger King/Saffron Photo

The issues with Doctor's Pond eclipsed even RideLondon concerns at last night's Dunmow annual town meeting (Thursday June 23).

Highlights from the packed room at Foakes Hall included an update about Doctor's Pond - and residents offering their assistance for free to sort out the silt.

Residents heard the town council will be replacing the CCTV across the town.

Uttlesford District Council's chief executive Peter Holt - sitting in the audience - stood up and promised the trio of councils (Essex County Council, UDC and the town council) will get together to sort out parking problems, along with issues with overgrown paths and uneven pavements.

And a Blue Badge holder told the meeting she nearly fell into the road while trying to get back to her vehicle, after spotting North Essex Parking Partnership operatives on behalf of RideLondon starting to remove her car before 9am on the Saturday.

That ticket - and all tickets issued for that day - has been cancelled after the Dunmow Broadcast stepped in.

RideLondon and Essex County Council were not present at the meeting.

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Doctor's Pond

Mayor Patrick Lavelle said the town council's Downs and Commons committee has approved a £15,000 improvement project for Doctor's Pond which will start in August.

This includes adding a new power supply to the pond and a dedicated aeration unit.

The sides of the pond have also caused concern, and need to be dealt with.

They are consulting with stakeholders and the Environment Agency.

Members of the public stood up and offered to help for free to get rid of the silt.

Residents asked if signage can go up to highlight that ducks should not be fed bread, and to signpost nearest toilets to stop visitors "urinating in bushes".

Another resident suggested that a solar-powered duck seed dispenser could be installed - and will send details to the town clerk.

Mayor Patrick Lavelle has promised that action will be taken but stressed they needed to ensure they do things in the right order.

The town has received an Essex wildlife accreditation for the first time, and declared an eco-emergency, the meeting was reminded.

Cllr Lavelle said the town will get new CCTV, covering more than just Doctor's Pond.

Dunmow parking problems

New car parking ticket machines are rejecting 25% of payments, the annual meeting heard.

Uttlesford District Council owns the four paid-for council car parks and the ticket machines, while parking of those 283 spaces is monitored and tickets are issued by North Essex Parking Partnership on their behalf.

Town and district councillor Alex Armstrong explained a change from old coin machines to new cashless machines was forced because of theft.

"On one weekend we lost £7,000 to £12,000 from the [old] machines. We can't keep affording to keep doing that."

New machines were then installed. They take contactless payments or payment via an app. But there are problems with the machines taking some payments.

Peter Holt, chief executive of Uttlesford District Council, stood up and admitted, "We are trying very hard to get it fixed."

Residents also raised concerns about 'fly parking' where cars are left in residential areas while the registered keeper goes on holiday via Stansted Airport.

The meeting heard about residents parking permits not covering Sundays so they are being issued with fines, and concerns about a general lack of parking and lack of enforcement of issues - while resident numbers grow as the town expands.

One resident suggested a scheme could be introduced for short stay parking on a yellow line for a fee.

Another said Dunmow is "becoming like the Wild West" for parking.

"There are places where pedestrian walkways are completely blocked to the disabled, the blind, to people with Guide Dogs," the man said.

Town councillor Alan Stratton suggested car licence plate reading machines could send fines out for breaches, as they do elsewhere.

Mr Holt said he will get all three councils into a room to find a way forward.

The meeting heard that for costs, Dunmow is still cheaper than neighbouring locations.

Town and district councillor Rod Jones said he wants to hear from anyone who has issues, and he will then be able to raise those issues with the right people.

RideLondon's impact on Dunmow

An audible noise greeted the news that RideLondon was not present at the town's annual meeting.

Great Dunmow mayor Patrick Lavelle said RideLondon had been in touch to say they were unable to attend, but had provided an email with a number of points.

These included the health benefits of the event, the charity money raised, and that they were keen to hear residents' feedback.

They also said that no decision has been made yet about whether the event was happening next year, or for the next four consecutive years.

Essex County Council who will make that decision, RideLondon's partners, were also not present.

Cllr Lavelle said this year's event had been organised for Essex relatively late.

The town council was notified in February, had a presentation from RideLondon in March and organised a public meeting on May 3 with RideLondon and Essex County Council available to answer questions.

Cllr Lavelle said it was his impression that the majority of the problems had been caused on the Sunday.

Nearly fell in road

Blue Badge holder Dawn Rook said she had nearly fallen into the road while trying to get back to her car, behind but not in the taxi rank, to stop it from being removed and leaving her stuck before 9am on the Saturday morning of RideLondon.

There had been no signage to suggest parking restrictions at that time of day. She had checked with a police officer, she told the meeting, that it was OK to park for 20 minutes to pay a bill.

"I nearly fell in the middle of the road. I was trying to rush on my crutches to stop it [the car] being lifted," she said.

She said she would not have been able to walk to the car if it had been moved elsewhere.

She then couldn't find anyone to talk to about the ticket, so she took to Facebook and was pointed to the Dunmow Broadcast. The ticket has now been cancelled.

Cllr Lavelle said: "I'm very pleased Ms Dunderdale was able to get it sorted out."

In a statement provided to the Dunmow Broadcast, a spokesperson for the North Essex Parking Partnership said: “Clearway restrictions were strictly enforced ahead of the race, including along Dunmow High Street, in order to deter parking and prevent obstructions along the route for competitors.

“However, all PCNs issued on the day have subsequently been cancelled at the request of the race organisers and no further action will be taken.”

A resident also asked why there had been a traffic tailback caused by a 10-minute hold-up by a large coach and three minibuses dropping off just two marshalls near The Kicking Dickie on Ongar Road. The town council said they would make enquiries.

The majority of RideLondon issues, the meeting heard, were connected to the Sunday road closures, and the access promised not being delivered.

One participant raised the 1,700 signature petition. He said: "It has affected 80% of businesses who have said they don't want it in the area".

A Dunmow Velo representative said his members have suffered hostility and language such as "these people" and "them cyclists". 

He said:" I would ask everybody here, please to temper their language."

The audience clapped after Cllr Lavelle praised the work of Dunmow Velo who had a gazebo and fixed bicycles on the Sunday for everyone.

Cllr Lavelle said he had spoken to a great number of participants during the community Sunday ride.

There was laughter as he added that some participants had come from as far away as Saffron Walden, on their first visit.

"They would be happy to come again because the roads are so enjoyable for cycling on."

Potholes, the meeting heard, had been repaired by RideLondon ahead of the event.

Applause

The meeting concluded with two bouts of applause.

Cllr Alex Armstrong praised Louise Dunderdale for her "excellent" work on the Dunmow Broadcast and Saffron Walden Reporter. She is leaving the papers.

There was also applause led by mayor Patrick Lavelle for the work that has been done, and continues to be done, for the town by its councillors.

READ MORE:

RideLondon: Residents say 'better communication is needed'

RideLondon: Photos of Classique and community rides

RideLondon 5 year plan: 900 object to district road closures