Wednesday, 30 January 2008

From the Herald Express 30 Jan 2008

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11:00 - 30 January 2008
Traders in Torquay town centre say the new seafront road closure has slashed business.Now they are calling for more council road signs to tell shoppers it is business as usual over the next four to six weeks while 35 trees are felled in Rock Walk.One shop owner in Fleet Walk had only four customers on the first day of the road closure.At Bon Marche in Fleet Street, business was 50 per cent down on the same day last year.Shopkeepers claim that 80 per cent of cars usually use the bottom entrance to the Fleet Walk car park from The Strand and that much of that business is being lost because out-of-town shoppers cannot find their way around Torquay's one-way system.Now they are keeping a log of car parking figures and foot-fall numbers in the shopping centre to record how much business is affected by the seafront road closure.And harbourside traders are printing off maps to give to delivery men to help them find their way around Torquay's backstreets.

Out of 44 shops on Fleet Walk, 15 had registered complaints with the centre owners yesterday about the downturn in trade.The owner of Angels Fly South, upstairs in the Fleet Walk gallery, Ross Swinton, said: "It's just killing trade."I'm not complaining about the actual work, which is going to be positive in the long term. I know this is the best time of year when they have to do this work, and it is quieter for trade anyway. But trade is hard enough without this. There are no people about at all."On Monday I did four sales. It's pretty horrendous."The council need to put up signs telling people the shops are open as usual.Mr Swinton said he had taken 20 minutes to negotiate diversions and find his way to the Abbey Road entrance to the car park.He said: "I got completely lost once and had to start again. If I hadn't owned the shop I would have given up and gone shopping in Exeter or elsewhere. It's a massive detour."

Emily Cates, the manager of Bon Marche, said: "Our figures were half what they were compared to last year's figure."Today was pretty dire until we had a coach tour."Our customers are older people and they are confused because the buses are not dropping off at the harbourside."I drove down here from Wellswood this morning and the streets are just dead."Why aren't there any signs telling the public that the shops are doing business as usual?"Justin Brewer, of Fabric Clothing, said: "Business is very quiet. It is going to be an awfully long six weeks. I can't believe it needs to take that long. Why can't they operate a one-way system along the seafront?"

The £100,000 tree clearing operation will make Rock Walk safe and open out views.Robert Excell, chairman of Torbay Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: "I'm hoping and praying for good weather so we can get this done in three weeks."The first few days are always going to be difficult but I hope that as people become more aware of the road closure, they will leave earlier and find alternative routes."I have asked for more signage so that people are aware and know why the road is closed."I do appreciate that the work is going to have an effect on traffic and on businesses but to get this work done, we simply did not have an alternative and what we will have eventually is a wonderful attraction for Torquay.

"He said that if businesses can prove loss resulting from the road closure they can go through Torbay Council's usual compensation protocols.Cabinet member Cllr Chris Lewis said: "There was never going to be a good time to carry out this essential work but we have done everything possible to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum."We consulted with businesses in the immediate area before setting a start date and the contractors will be working into the nights and at weekends to ensure that the work is carried out as quickly as possible.

"All of the town centre car parks are accessible, diversion routes have been signposted and we have held an information day for local businesses and residents to give them the opportunity to find out about the work and express any concerns."We have also publicised the work through the media and posted diversion routes on the council's website.

"The first day of work has gone really well. The contractors have removed two of the largest trees from the very top of Rock Walk, approximately 65 metres above the ground, and we are pleased with the system that is now in place."There has been a steady crowd of people gathering at the site to watch the work in progress throughout the day, many of them have been very positive and have been keen to take photos and film the work."

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Notes about the blog. Updated 08 March 2008

Not much is happening at Rock Work now. All the work clearing the trees has been done. A barrier has been erected to prevent rock falls from reaching the road. Now we wait for the geological survey in May to see what can be done to fix the rocks in place.
After that when work starts again later in the year I will post more photos.
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