Closure of seaside dogging hotspot car park delayed

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Moves to shut down a Torquay ‘dogging’ hotspot car park have been delayed amid claims that Torbay Council has over-reacted. The free car park at Watcombe Beach is popular with hikers, runners, dog-walkers – and doggers.

One website dedicated to the pursuit of outdoor public sex proclaims: “Watcombe Beach car park is the top spot for Torquay doggers.”

Torbay Council announced last week that the car park would be closed permanently from the beginning of November after ‘reports of anti-social behaviour’ there. Now, though, the closure has been postponed as a result of an outcry.

Torbay MP Kevin Foster said he had never received any complaints about activities in the car park and believed the closure was an over-reaction. Bay councillor Steve Darling called for more talks and said the closure would make parking problems in the Watcombe area worse.

The closure was first revealed when signs appeared at the car park last week announced that it would be closed permanently from ‘Wednesday 3rd November’. Users took to social media to complain, not least because November 3 is actually a Friday.

Torbay Council confirmed: “Reports of anti-social behaviour at this location have been notified to the council. Therefore the closure of this car park will take place in November. The land has been declared surplus to requirements by the council’s parking service and the future use of the site will now be considered by the council’s Strategic Land Task Group.”

Cllr Darling said he was concerned at the loss of parking spaces in an area which was already under pressure. In a letter to council officers he said: “There is a significant highways issue along nearby Moor Lane where there are three schools. I fear that this closure will only make a bad situation worse. Can you call a halt to this car park closure?”

He added: “Has the council really exhausted every avenue of inquiry before doing this?”

Mr Foster said: “This could be dealt with via an overnight closure or even a winter months closure. Just to shut the car park for the beach without any real consultation is wrong.

“This will have a very real impact. There is little point maintaining the other facilities around Watcombe beach if you are then going to shut off the way of getting there.

“I think the closure was over the top. There has been virtually zero consultation. The delay is welcome because it means we can have a proper discussion about the beach as a whole, and talk about what the real issues are.”

A Torbay Council spokesperson said: “The closure of Watcombe car park has been postponed for now. For information it was identified as surplus to our service requirements when we undertook the Parking Review in 2016. We unfortunately don’t have the resources to monitor a free car park or to operate a night time only closure. Our Strategic Land Task Group will determine what happens next but at this time we do not have a timeline on when this will be discussed.”