One of Skegness’s most iconic seaside attractions is under threat amid health and safety concerns.
The Skegness Land Train is driven on the foreshore by Dean Sumner, who had operated the land train through a lease agreement with the district council.
In 2013, the council say police contacted the operator of the land train in Mablethorpe, to inform him that the foreshore is deemed to be ‘a public highway’ by law and as such, any vehicle travelling on the foreshore must meet VOSA requirements, which the land train did not.
This then raised the same issue in Skegness.
A spokesman for ELDC said: “The council has been working with Mr Sumner for some time to help him in trying to comply with the law before the 2014 season. Unfortunately, at this time, Mr Sumner hasn’t been able to comply with the VOSA licensing requirements.”
“The District Council has to ensure all concessions comply with the law before we issue a licence to operate”, they added.
Speaking to The Standard, Mr Sumner expained how he had been told that he would need a category D driving licence, so had spent £1,500 of his own money to achieve this and had passed a ‘passenger carrying vehicle’ (PCV) licence test.
“This was needed so you could have higher and reward insurance and apply for a vehicle special order”, said Mr Sumner.
However, unfortunately for Mr Sumner, the vehicle special order requires that all wheels on the train have to have brakes if running on a ‘highway’.
A requirement it has not needed in the past and wouldn’t need if operating on ‘private land’.
Mr Sumner said: “It would cost thousands to add brakes, it’s not feasible, it’s perfectly adequate for what it does, what’s next, lapb-belts?”
“Now the council are saying that the area the train operates in is deemed a road or highway risk. They’re petrified that they or I would get into trouble should anything happen”. said Mr Sumner.
Mr Sumner took on the established small business for the summer months after being made redundant in 2009.
The train, which Mr Sumner bought from the previous owner, was built in 1999 and had operated successfully for a decade on Skegness’s foreshore.
Mr Sumner said: “It’s only a small business, I’ve done what I can to keep the business going and this would have been my sixth season.
“I question why it has previously been okay in the past, it has regular checks by engineers and these would make it safe to run on private land but while it is deemed a public highway, my business cannot operate and I’ll be left without a business to run in the summer months.
Skegness Coun, Robin Hunter-Clarke said: “It is absolutely ridiculous that Skegness will lose one of its great attractions that has always been there as long as I can remember.
“There really is no common sense left in the world. The foreshore in my eyes is not a public highway - it has no other traffic, there is no danger.
“It all comes down to the ridiculous health and safety legislation and red tape that small businesses must comply with.
“How can it be expected for the land train to meet the VOSA requirements?”
“I suspect this is another EU regulation from Brussels as the land train has operated for years without any problem. I sympathise with Mr Dean Sumner on this issue completely and will be doing all I can so that one day it can return.”
East Lindsey District Council said: “We continue to support Mr Sumner and hope that a way can be found to continue this popular seafront attraction.
“The loss of the Land Train would be a blow to Skegness and the wider area.”
Lincolnshire Police said: “We regard the Promenade area as a public highway as it is an area to which the public have access.
“Any vehicle given permission to use this area would therefore be expected to comply with all the regulations which apply to vehicles using any public road, in order to ensure the safety of users and pedestrians.
“There must be correct insurance in place, the driver must hold the necessary licence and the vehicle must meet road worthiness standards set by VOSA.”
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