ANDY FOLLETT, of Dartmouth, writes:

When I first heard the news that larger cruise ships were being proposed for the Dart, my initial thoughts were positive. I was informed that the proposed location is to be opposite my house (Beacon Rd, Kingswear) and that my estuary view would be compromised.

Yet I remained positive and in support. I feel that the mooring, movement and visits by boats of all sizes is part of the view I enjoy and the spectacle of a large boat bringing tourists in to the harbour by sea, is a shared excitement. To have the view partially blocked for 30 days per year would be a small price to pay for the economy and vibrancy of the town.

When I saw a mock-up of the large Crystal Serenity, moored in the harbour mouth and viewed from town, I realised the concern that many others have.

Ignoring for a moment, the personal impact, my heart sank when I realised that the wonderful and timeless views of the harbour mouth, beckoning sea and historic castles will be obliterated for all those who stand on the quaysides of Dartmouth or who like to enjoy their fish and chips with a pint while sitting, legs dangling over a wall.

One of my favorite views is from Bayards looking out to sea as a full moon rises up over the castle. It is timeless and for me that stunning view is the very heart of Dartmouth and it encapsulates the spirit of its relationship with the sea.

The difference in volume between a 177M ship like Queen Frederica and the 250M Crystal Serenity is huge and the proposal states that 250M is the starting point with larger vessels to be considered.

The increase in beam and overall height of these much bigger ships will bring serious unintended consequences. I appreciate that towns like ours must thrive to survive and we should not be afraid to adapt. But towns like Salcombe have adapted and its history has largely been lost.

It has turned itself from a fishing and traditional tourist town into a second-home playground for the wealthy. It would be such a shame for Dartmouth, in its pursuit of adapting, to turn itself into a replica of Torquay. Devon already has its fabulous Torquay and we should be careful to preserve the uniqueness of a distinct Dartmouth.

We must always adapt but be careful not to shoehorn an oversized package into an inappropriate box. Dartmouth remains an area to be conserved and respected. If a proposal were put forward by a developer to create an enormous floating hotel, slap bang in the middle of the harbour entrance for 1 month each year, the proposal of course would not get a second airing.

It is a little sinister that the proposal states that no approvals are required and that the authority has powers to implement the proposal without further legal consent. Householders are not even granted permitted development rights to modestly extend their balconies without full planning approval because we live in a conservation area such that to forge ahead with a commercially motivated scheme, whilst knowingly harming the aesthetics seems entirely unjust. Although I appreciate this period of consultation and hope that it is more than a box ticking exercise.

Promoting the town to increased tourism must of course be towards the top of a list of priorities. But a massive increase in trading opportunities during the peak and mid seasons will possibly be too much for town to cope with.

Already during the summer our restaurants are full. Already during the summer some facilities are stretched, especially during holidays when the weather is fine. A 250 M ship would bring many thousands of extra holidaymakers to a town in June, July, August and is likely to put a strain on restaurants and bars beyond their capacities.

This proposal does nothing to address the much-needed commercial growth during late autumn, winter and early spring. In those months when Dartmouth really needs a commercial boost, the exposed position of the proposed mooring would often be largely untenable for tender vessels to work safely. The resulting longer-term consequences for mid and peak time overcrowding of services (land based holiday makers not finding tables to eat with their children, excessive ques outside of takeaways, potential customers not being able to get to a bar or spilling out from already full buildings) might mean that businesses are harmed over time.

The town wall will lose a large and important percentage of its openness to the facilities required for drop off and the security checking of 2,500 customers returning to ship. We must imagine for a moment the amount of harbour wall, so enjoyed by crabbers, promenaders, picknickers and holiday revellers that will be lost to overcrowding, when space is allocated for 2,500 passengers who will require screening before boarding the tenders.

Smaller ships bring smaller crowds and with these smaller numbers, the town has proved it can cope. An increase in smaller ships would be a more sustainable aim. One large ship disembarking the volume of two Queen Fredericas on a single day may prove to be unsustainable. Of course the smaller boat demand may be maximised already, but if town doesn’t have the daily capacity to cater for a doubling of cruise tourists (these 250M vessels with their beam and heights, will have at least twice the capacity of a 170M ship) alongside regular holidaymakers, then this larger market should be left for the towns that do.

When we consider the potential to overburden this small town, it has been suggested that these 250M boats would bring around 2,500 visitors. It is also stated that these size ships are at the starting end of what is hoped for so we can expect even more numbers to offload as time goes on.

A perspective is given that 2,500 is not so far away from three steam trains that would bring up to 1,800 visitors but a ship of this sized equates to four steam trains in ADDITION to the actual three steam trains that already offload. Thus, on days, the town will be trying to cope with 4,300 visitors ON TOP of the usual locally housed holidaymakers. When the ship sizes increase again as hoped, we will have even greater numbers trying to find somewhere to sit and enjoy the peaceful view of the 250M hotel ship blotting out much of the estuary mouth!

From a personal perspective, I have no objection to a smaller cruise ship mooring outside of my house on Beacon Rd and the disturbance that it would occasionally bring. But 30 ships moored per year is a lot to ask for all those property owners who live at this end of the Dart.

The Estuary of course narrows here such that the homes and houses are tighter and very much closer to the mooring. The 250 M ship would tower over most of the houses, especially those on the water’s edge. My concern however is not the blocking of view. No-one has a right to a view and as a working harbour we must appreciate that views change. My concern is that these huge ships will be ferrying people back and forth throughout the later hours of the evening.

The huge generators and air handling units will be producing constant hum such that I fear we may never be able to sleep. I honestly and genuinely don’t know if it might become impossible to live there on nights when such noise is being made. I note that only 6 overnight stays will be allowed but the reality is that most noise will occur when the Ships arrive/depart.

These traffic movements are likely to happen early or late in the day so that a full days land based exploring can be enjoyed once the 2,500 customers have been carefully shuttled ashore. Like most elderly people we head to bed early (for us it is 21.30hrs). We sleep in reasonably until 07.00 or 08.00hrs. These 60 ship manoeuvres (30 days, each with an early arrival and a later departure) are likely to severely impact our peaceful enjoyment of our homes, with engines, generators, horns, warps, windlasses, pilot boats, crew loudspeakers etc etc.

If there is any vessel movement or preparation for such movement between the hours of 21.30 and 07.30 we will find ourselves deprived of our sleep patterns by these enormous cruise ships. Stationed just yards from our beds, these huge vessels are likely to blight our homes. I may be being overly pessimistic but even when fishing boats pass by in the early hours, one can hear the chatting and clatter aboard the boats as they pass. Yet they are small and they pass by quickly.

On Balance I prefer to see more visiting cruise ships not bigger ones that would overwhelm this intimate port. I wonder if the wider estuary locations are better suited than the narrower stretches which are nearer to homes and I worry that the financial benefits are being placed ahead of sustainability and preservation of all those things that makes Dartmouth so special.

I appreciate that I may be regarded by some as having a “NIMBY” attitude to the proposal, but my fears and worries for Town and for my ability to reasonably enjoy my home are genuine and I think well founded. I know that when views have become entrenched, they are difficult to change but please dont forget those of us who live here as well as those who will live here after us, when deciding upon our fate.