1. Funnily enough I was thinking about the ‘Totnes model’ before reading Jennifer’s post. I was under the impression that the BID were working to attract these small, independent retailers. There’s no easy answer to this problem which, as we all know, is endemic in many town centres. Jennifer is right, of course, that most people do now shop on-line and travel to out-of-town shopping centres, where it’s easy to park. It seems to me, however, that there’s a vicious circle of decline in Torbay which we really must halt before it’s too late. Without interesting, up-market shops and facilities, we won’t attract holiday-makers who have the resources and the will to spend money in the Bay. Without those people it’s going to be difficult to attract the retailers. I’m no expert in these matters and I understand that money is very tight but we must surely begin to think longer-term if anything is to improve. Time and money have been spent at the bottom of Fleet Walk where the road and pavements have been resurfaced. The retailers in that area suffered greatly, as did visitors and residents alike whilst the work was being carried out. I’m sorry to say that it already looks cheap and tacky which is terribly depressing.

    I know that there are many committed, experienced and dedicated local people who give their time generously to work towards steering the future of our lovely Bay in the right direction. One of the problems seems to be, however, that there are so many different groups, all seemingly doing similar jobs, that they will, inevitably, be pulling in slightly different directions and continually ‘re-inventing the wheel’. This is clearly a costly and frustrating situation.

    I don’t want this post to be a negative ‘rant’ so will sum up by saying that I’m convinced it is possible to turn things around. This would take long-term, flexible thinking. I would start by rationalising the various working parties in the Bay – look at what work is being duplicated and whether they are giving value for money. Then perhaps it is about learning from towns that are ‘getting it right’. We are so very lucky to have the most amazing natural beauty all around us. We must begin to invest in good quality infrastructure and then to maintain this to a high standard. A family holiday in Britain is not a cheap option and our visitors deserve the best. I’m appalled every time I see the shabby, dirty and noisy burger-van pull up on Torre Abbey beach. I cannot imagine how they get the Licence each year. There are some great up-market alternatives around so why are we settling for this horror? This is one example of something that could surely be easily fixed. Small changes can lead to bigger ones. Let’s go for it!

  2. I think that with more and more people shopping on the internet, many town centres will only survive if they can attract small independent retailers. Totnes is a prime example of a vibrant, successful town centre. I can’t hazard a guess as to why a popular seaside resort like Torquay is unable to attract independent retailers. Although the economy is improving, I can’t foresee all the empty shops being occupied in the near or even distant future. They could be converted to domestic use, revitalising the centre of Torquay and filling gaps in the housing market. Some revenue would be lost but better that than a retail desert.

  3. of course Top Shop are now out at the Willows where most likely they pay lower rates than would be asked for on Fleet Walk which have had an influence on the decision not to renew their lease here.

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