JIM PARKER: End of line for Pavilion traders?
ISEE I was right about the Pavilion last week. There had been hope that a regeneration scheme for the Pavilion and marina car park area of Torquay seafront was still very much alive.
Then came confirmation that a scheme driven by the Nicholas James hotel group, which would restore what was once a jewel in the harbour side crown to its former glory, was, in fact, progressing.
There was one downside, though. The redevelopment — if given the go ahead, of course — will see the current Pavilion shopping complex turned into a reception area, restaurant etc for a new hotel with its rooms and a separate apartments element on the marina car park.
That means the end for the shops currently trading the Pavilion. They have met with representatives of Marina Developments Limited, who lease the building from Torbay Council, to be told they have three months to quit to make way for the project.
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One fear is the Pavilion may be mothballed between the traders leaving and the new hotel development actually emerging.
And what about the businesses themselves, some of whom who have spent a lot of time and money over several years trying to make a go of the Pavilion? No easy task.
I suppose a boarding up of the landmark site is inevitable but it simply cannot be allowed to remain like that for a lengthy period of time.
And couldn't the demise of the traders in the Pavilion be used to boost other parts of the town centre with a potential move into shop units which are currently empty — especially just yards away in the Fleet Walk shopping complex?
Jonathan Abery has run Therapia, a shop selling aromatherapy gifts, lavender and essential oils, for the past 10 years in the Pavilion.
He confirmed the traders will be out of the Pavilion in the New Year. There are 10 shops and a restaurant left.
Mr Abery says: "You are talking about the livelihoods of about 40 people. It could not have happened at a worse time. The economy is fundamentally poor."
What about a move for the traders? Mr Abery says: "Quite a few people have looked at shops in different locations but it does require a significant outlay in terms of leases and funding for everything else.
"Many of these businesses are one-man bands. They will end.
"The trouble is we have made carved niches in the market and you are selling products to the tourists.
"If we go too far into town you are going to be dealing with the regulars of Torquay. The products are not aimed at that."
He added: "Fleet Walk is a possibility but the units are quite big and it goes back to the economy."
But isn't worth trying?
Mr Abery says: "We may be interested if leases could be negotiated.
"It would be up to the management of Fleet Walk — if they could, perhaps, offer us some incentives to go in there."
A spokesman for Fleet Walk said the management was unable to comment on any possible link up.
A spokesman for MDL has said: "We have notified all tenants personally and will be working closely with them over the coming months to assist with relocation and support in any way we can.
"We would stress that the Pavilion will remain open for trade over the forthcoming autumn and Christmas period and would encourage people to visit the shopping centre in the coming months prior to this prestigious building embarking on a new era as a quality hotel.
"We are working with the Torbay Development Agency and the Torbay Town Centres Company to explore new locations in Torbay's retail centre."
That for me is key to this. To see 10 businesses forced to close when there are empty shops aplenty to accommodate them elsewhere is crazy. There has to be give and take on both sides, of course. But with a new hotel, restored Pavilion and traders moving into other empty shops everyone's a winner.
I SPENT a day with the family at Longleat during a recent break. I visited the attraction several years ago and it has become bigger and better.
Oh, and by the way, anybody who decides to drive their own car through the monkey enclosure wants their head read.
If you want my advice pay a couple of quid extra and go on the specially-provided safari bus.
Part of the fun was watching the monkeys tear to pieces those vehicles that had been foolhardy enough to venture into their kingdom.
I couldn't help but wonder how much Torbay — or a site in South Devon for that matter — would benefit from such a theme park-style offering.
I am not for one minute criticising our attractions in Torbay who do a terrific job putting the Bay on the holiday map and catering for visitors and holidaymakers alike.
But a South Devon Longleat...
Torbay deputy mayor Dave Thomas says: "I would be struggling to think of a location where it would work.
"It is a massive site. I would be supportive of anything that brings tourism into the Bay.
"But we would like to be the events capital of the South West. We would like people from other parts of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset to be thinking 'let's go to Torbay for the weekend'.
"One big attraction would attract so many people. There are a lot of people who would not engage with that."
He reckons having a number of different attractions makes the Bay holiday offer more 'diverse'.
If my memory serves me right CenterParcs was linked to a possible site in the Teignbridge area not so many years ago.
Wouldn't there be room for both?