Reversing road to revitalise area
I POPPED up to St Marychurch the other day and was glad to see the shopping precinct still as bustling as ever. No doubt, some traders are struggling just like anywhere else in Torquay but the precinct has a distinct character which can only help.
Then we have Torre.
I can remember Torre of old, a shopping area full of vibrance and variety, renowned for its copious amount of antique shops.
Now all I do is drive through Torre on my way home from town, not thinking once to park up and shop.
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There are shops and businesses in Torre still doing well and battling away in these difficult times
But the traffic flow is an issue and some say, if reversed, would help boost trade and put Torre back on the map.
At the moment traffic comes into town but when it hits Torre, it is sent up around the houses instead of being able to flow down past the shops and into the town centre.
If you are leaving the centre, you come up one way into Torre and go straight through.
Robert Excell has had a photographic business in Torre for almost 40 years. He is semi-retired now due his commitments as a ward councillor.
He can remember the days when traffic went down into the town and says a reversal is a priority.
By the way, I don't think it would be fair for anybody to accuse Cllr Excell of a conflict of interests here. Yes, he does own a business in Torre but he is doing this with the interests of everybody at heart.
He says: "We have some good businesses here. We are in the middle of a recession and there is not the money around. People are surviving and working hard at it. But we have had problems with the road going the wrong way.
"We have been at the end of the town, rather than the beginning. It used to be at the start of the town.
"Reversing the road would revitalise the whole area. It will regenerate the area. We have tried to get it changed and I have asked for it to be looked at again. It has been agreed that we look at it and obtain some facts and figures.
"We want to be the gateway to the town. It would be brilliant for Torre."
He says the traffic was reversed back in the 1980s as a three-year pilot scheme.
"If we did not like it after three years we could get it reversed," said Cllr Excell. "We asked for it to be reversed. We could see things like the antiques shops started closing but it never happened."
He added: "At the moment you drive up here when you are leaving Torquay, not entering. Your mind is on going home, not shopping."
Susie Colley, chairman of the Torre and Upton community partnership, is not convinced that a traffic reversal would work, although it is something being discussed by the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan.
She has concerns over parking and where the traffic would end up going once it headed towards the town centre.
There are mooted plans for a pharmacy to move into the empty shell of what was the former B and Q building in Torre as part of a new housing complex.
Mrs Colley thinks this may be a better way of transforming the area.
She says: "A nice independent pharmacy might encourage more development in Torre."
Patrick Carney, from Torbay Council's highways department, has been asked to look at the Torre traffic issue. But it's not as straightforward as you may think...
Mr Carney says: "It is sitting on the to do list. Because there is no money for it and I have other schemes that are funded, it keeps getting put back."
He says there may be an advantage to reversing the traffic because it would bring more vehicles into the town. The down side is working how to get traffic back out.
The main exit route would be via Lymington Road or Tor Hill Road and turning right by the Central Church.
But that would mean a change in traffic lights signals, introducing a right turn and a second lane.
Mr Carney says: "I have been asked to find a solution to that problem. Some people will say more traffic means more business. Others will say more traffic more impact on their day to day environment.
"We would have to go the community partnership to see what they want. There is no money to find it but opening it up would be cheap."
There is also speculation that if the B and Q development was to go ahead some money may be found for the traffic scheme through 106 section agreements.
For me, where there is a will there has to be a way. I have said we can't stand still and watch our town centres die. That brings me finally and nicely on to a problem Mrs Colley has had in her capacity as chairman of the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan which has been tasked with engaging with the public to see how it wants to see the town developed in the decades to come.
Mrs Colley has bought six banners advertising the forum and wanted to display them at prominent locations around the town. But getting permission has not been straightforward.
She was hoping Mr Carney may be able to sanction the go-ahead. But, evidently, that falls under the jurisdiction of another council department which manages the town diary. Organisations have to book events and banners with the town diary team. Prime locations are always in high demand.
Mr Carney says: "We do not just allow people to put up banners any where willy nilly."
He says there are safety implications with some sites, especially at pedestrian crossings where banners should not mask people, especially, children, waiting to cross.
Be interesting to see if Mrs Colley can get her banners booked.
By the way, the slogan on them is 'Doing Nothing Is Not An Option.
Kind of sums things up nicely.