Residents fork out for visitor travel
RESIDENTS in the Cheddar area will soon be forking out thousands of pounds for visitors to come to the popular tourist destination. Anyone who visits the area using a bus pass will get a discount and residents will pay for it.
RESIDENTS in the Cheddar area will soon be forking out thousands of pounds for visitors to come to the popular tourist destination.
Anyone who visits the area using a bus pass will get a discount and residents will pay for it.
The moves comes as the law changes in April and district councils will have to reimburse bus companies for concessionary fares.
From April 1 anyone eligible for a concessionary bus pass will be able to use a new 'Smart Card' on weekdays, weekends and bank holidays in any part of England for the first time ever.
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At the moment, only Sedgemoor residents can use their bus passes in the district, but from April anyone visiting the area who qualifies for the Smart Cards will be able to use them on the buses.
Cheddar alone can have more than 500,000 visitors in a year, compared to a massive 9.5million in Somerset, and on a warm bank holiday the area can see up to 32,000 tourists in just one day.
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In a Sedgemoor District Council report, initial estimates say the scheme will cost the authority £49,600 a year for visitors, based on 2,813,000 tourists coming to the area, of which 22 per cent are aged 60 or over.
But pensioners are not the only ones who qualify for bus passes. People on disability allowances, those who are deaf and blind, those without speech and people who cannot hold a driving licence for medical reasons can also apply.
At a meeting of Cheddar Parish Council, members were told by district councillor Peter Downing that 'tourists will have concessionary bus fares from April and Sedgemoor District Council will have to foot the bill'.
Concerned councillors are worried about how much the new law will cost tax payers.
Cllr Gill Davies said: "Why isn't the bus pass scheme means tested? I have seen some people with two cars parked on the drive getting a free ride on the bus."
However, in a district council report, it said: "Of more dubious benefit is the additional spend made by pass-holders in destination towns. There are some claims that sales in tea shops and gift centres have risen, but whether this is directly related is unknown. With the free scheme will come a further rise in this kind of trade."
A council committee has been set up to find out how many people use bus services in Sedgemoor and will be reporting its findings back to the authority.
* What do you think about the new bus passes and how it will affect residents in Sedgemoor? Log on to www.thewestonmercury.co.uk