Open letter to Kevin Mowat, Torbay Council
Good morning Mr Mowat
Thank you for taking the time to attend the general meeting. Your input was very helpful, especially in terms of advancing people’s knowledge of the possibilities behind the Oxen Cove expansion. Since then I have been in discussion with both residents and local businesses and would share with you the general thrust of those discussions.
While people were reassured by both the proposed timing, i.e. after the main summer season, and the limited extent of the first phase of the Oxen Cove development – the pontoon into the harbour for a vessel to tie up to – the general feeling is that the second stage, with the removal of both coach and car parking infrastructure, is a much more serious proposal. There was some consensus that the bringing in of permanent employment opportunities was a good thing that should be encouraged but it was also clear that the following should be given consideration:
1. You mentioned that Freshwater car park could be developed into a multi-storey car park. This was generally felt to be inadvisable with the following reasons given:
- The narrow, winding access to the car park would be faced with coach, additional lorry and much increased car traffic, leading to problems with traffic and hold-ups that would be damaging to the image of the town while simultaneously making life difficult for both residents and hospitality businesses in the immediate and nearby vicinity.
- Coach drivers would not appreciate either the delays or their pushing even further from the centre of the town. Given that most trips are the results of arrangements made by individual coach drivers, there was widespread apprehension that irritation with the system could reduce considerably the amount of coach traffic. This would be bad news for retail and micro-businesses operating within the town, all of whom benefit from the passengers and trade that they bring.
- There was a general feeling that the building of a multi-storey here could in itself lead to further problems if the harbour wished, in the face of increasing demand for its facilities, to look for further land into which to expand. The multi-storey might itself be built in the very place that the harbour might eventually need.
- Other concerns raised included the necessity of preserving both the aesthetic qualities of the area and pedestrian access, i.e. the ability of people to have a comfortable walk with an unspoilt view. While they were reassured by your pledge to ensure no offensive smells and that the building should be of sufficient quality to ensure that it fitted nicely in with its surroundings, I formed the distinct impression that this is something that will be monitored closely.
2. In the light of these concerns, everyone that I spoke to was firmly convinced that the building of a multi-storey car in the town centre should be given a very high priority. The reasons given were:
- To avoid visitor frustration, it would be necessary to replace the parking infrastructure removed from Oxen Cove.
- The provision of central long stay parking would increase the amount of cars parking in the town. This would be good for local businesses but would also have the effect of considerably increasing the revenue from the car park, which would also accrue a significant portion of the parking revenue displaced from Oxen Cove.
- The multi-storey would facilitate access to Middle Street and the harbour front, being of considerable benefit to trades operating within both areas.
- Visitors could enjoy a more relaxed day within Brixham, leading to increased visitor satisfaction while also helping a more diverse range of Brixham businesses, e.g. the theatre, cafés, restaurants etc.
- If, like Paignton, the bottom level could be used as a dedicated coach park, this might increase coach traffic whilst simultaneously diverting it away from potential road conflict between coaches and lorries servicing the harbour facilities.
- It would be good for potential investment within the town. There are a growing number of empty shops within Brixham, with some would be investors put off by the town only having short stay parking facilities centrally, the problem being compounded further by the small number of spaces available. Considerably increasing the number of parking spaces with the building of a central multi-storey car park, which also tackles the problem of no long stay parking, would be a considerable step in the right direction. Potential investors would be much more inclined to view the town favourably. This would, in turn, be good for the council with occupied shops generating more income than empty ones.
It was also felt that delaying the building of a central multi-storey while trying to secure investment from a large retail or other consortium was both a distraction and a complete waste of time. The problems with the site are such that the consensus of opinion was that developers would not be interested and that delays while trying to find such partners would be extremely deleterious for the town. If we are to lose Oxen Cove, then the replacement infrastructure – the central multi-storey – needs to be built before the second phase of the Oxen Cove development goes ahead. It was felt that the council needs to bite the bullet and get on with it, trying to do as much out of season as possible.
Other ideas included the possibility of the new Oxen Cove development harbouring some form of aquarium which could not only be linked to education but which would also simultaneously provide a new visitor attraction to Brixham, which might be very advantageous to the town. People also wondered whether the proposed education area put forward by Brixham Sea Farms could be linked to Barry Young’s fish market tours in some form or other. (Not that this affects the development but people did wonder if it might provide an opportunity for both businesses.)
Another point raised was whether or not the Yacht club might be interested in moving their facilities to the outside of the proposed pontoon so that they were not squeezed in the middle. People wondered whether this might also have the effect of simultaneously setting them up so as to avoid potential future problems with the Oxen Cove development. I got the distinct impression that the Yacht Club had their own ideas that they wished to carry forward and that they would welcome further talks and input from yourself.
I will continue to monitor local feeling but would stress that a central multi-storey car park is seen as an essential part of the project. Timing is crucial and local businesses, I think, rather more inclined to support the project if action is taken on the Central Car Park earlier rather than later.
I have copied in Alan Denby, TDA and Dr Wollaston, MP to keep them informed.
Once again, Mr Mowat, my thanks for your input. If you could please keep us informed of events as they progress, it would be much appreciated. I have also been asked to stress, whilst on the subject of car parks, the importance of the evening tariff starting at 6.00 pm in the future. (We will be collating further information on parking and writing to you separately on that issue in the near future.)
I hope that this message finds you in good health and I look forward to hearing from you again.
Brixham Chamber of Commerce