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Dartmouth Tourist information centre losing cash

DARTMOUTH’S award-winning tourist information centre has warned it needs more funding if it is to survive.
It takes about £120,000 a year to run the centre, which last year made a loss of almost £13,000.
Dartmouth Town Council has just approved a £3,000 grant towards the running of the centre.
But TIC chairman Angie Cairns- Sharp told the council on Monday that its contribution was ‘well below’ what other TICs across the South Hams received from their councils.
‘We are not on a level playing field with other centres, even though we have a great product,’ she said.
‘We need everybody to buy into the centre or it will not survive.’
‘We are not asking you to find £120,000, but we are making you aware that without support the centre is not sustainable and will have to close in the long-term. Our tourism industry remains the major source of income for Dartmouth, so the work of the TIC plays a vital role towards preserving Dartmouth as a proper working town.
‘The whole team continues to work very hard to find the additional funding needed to keep the information centre open but our visitor numbers are higher than ever this year and overheads continue to rise.’
Mrs Cairns-Sharp said Totnes Town Council provided about 30 per cent of its TIC costs and other centres at Ivybridge, Kings­bridge, Salcombe and Ashburton also received funding from their town councils or help with building overheads.
‘So we are hoping that Dartmouth Town Council recognises the importance of reviewing what is currently a well-below-average contribution of just 2.5 per cent,’ she said.
Dartmouth’s TIC opens all year round and operates with just one full-time and three part-time paid staff and a team of 13 volunteers, in addition to its five volunteer directors.
In 2014, the centre received 143,000 visitors and had more than 205,000 visitors to its main website, the meeting in the Guildhall heard.
Mrs Cairns-Sharp said: ‘We have an excellent website and brochure, we are award winning and getting people through the door. But in the long term we are looking for more help.
‘It is vital the town recognises the tremendous effort from a small team. The problem is, despite all our efforts, the costs do not decrease and the demand for the centre is greater and visitors are more needy these days.
‘And all credit to the team, they do that in a quiet and understated way.’
Cllr Robin Springett said he would like to see South Hams Council hand over the building to Dartmouth, for which the TIC paid rent of around £6,900 a year.
‘It sticks in my craw a bit that we make a £3,000 contribution to the TIC and it goes straight to South Hams Council,’ he said.
Cllr Francis Hawke said he believed tourist numbers were ‘falling fast’ in the town.
Businesses and restaurants were suffering, there were fewer cruise ships visiting and the closure of the Little Cotton caravan park will have a knock-on effect to the economy, he said.
‘This council cannot afford £500 to provide two skips to take away rubbish at Townstal, so I don’t see how we can have money for the TIC,’ he said.
‘We are little parish council and have to look at our spending.’
Cllr Tony Fyson said the TIC was ‘missing a trick’ by not charging for entrance to the Newcomen Engine House.
Cllr Richard Rendle said the council didn’t have a bucket- load of money and it must prioritise community projects.
But the TIC was the lifeblood of the town and he hoped a way forward could be found for the town council to play its part, he said.
Afterwards, former town councillor Dave Cawley, who was chairman of the TIC from 2002 to 2006, said that it seemed the figures suggested the TIC was spiralling into debt.
‘I wonder why the Dartmouth Business Improvement District, with its £170,000 a year, does not bail it out?’ he said.
‘In my days, we charged £1 for entry to the Newcomen engine and asked for a £1 donation for the guide. Every little helps.’­

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