Sunday, 3 February 2008

From the Herald Express Sat 02 Feb 2008

02 February 2008
Traders in hard-hit Fleet Street have signed up to a new parking refund scheme to entice shoppers into town while Torquay seafront is closed.Businesses are reporting losses of up to 50 per cent due to restricted access to the harbourside end of town, which is expected to last for up to three weeks until work to remove dangerous trees from Rock Walk is completed.And bosses at bus company Stagecoach says the diversions are costing them up to £4,000 a week extra.To combat the slump in trade, nine independent shops have so far agreed to participate in the Show Us Your Disc scheme which sees £1 refunded towards parking when shoppers spend over a certain amount.

All people have to do is produce their yellow disc from the Fleet Walk pay-on-foot car park, which has seen the number of cars parking there plummet.John James, owner of Paul James jewellers on Fleet Street, instigated the scheme to combat the negative impact and is hopeful more shops will come onboard.He said: "Fleet Walk car park is practically empty at the moment because people don't realise it's open. If a customer spends over a certain amount then we will give them £1 towards parking."So in theory people could park for free all day if they spend enough money in different shops. I came to work at 11.30am on Tuesday and there were only 28 cars parked in Fleet Walk. It would seem people are avoiding the town full stop.

"The closure of the seafront is costing businesses so much. I would say we're 50 per cent down. It was a quiet Christmas and now we've got a quiet time again, which is causing no end of problems."John said he lost a £600 sale on Monday because a customer said they couldn't get through from Paignton and were unaware of the diversion routes.All he is asking from businesses is £2 to cover the cost of printing the posters, which shops participating in the refund scheme will display in their windows detailing how much people have to spend to get their parking refund.

Shops which have signed up so far are Pet Shop Buoys, In House, Blue Geranium florist, Oh Wow, Lippy, Animal Crackers, The Kitchen Shop, The Candle Shop, Angels Fly South and Paul James.Annie Roberts, general manager at Hoopers department store, says trade has been 'dramatically' impacted since Monday.She's working with the council to send out positive messages to get shoppers into the town centre.Annie said: "The seafront being closed has had quite a dramatic effect on trade, which has been a surprise. I've reduced sale stock even further to compensate for it."There's definite confusion and people have the impression that it's difficult to get into town. A lot of our trade comes from people taking short breaks and tourists head for the seafront."They see it's closed and don't know the routes around it to find the car parks, which is something the council is looking to improve.

"The closure of Torquay's seafront is also having an impact on bus company Stagecoach, which says it is costing it more than £3,000 a week putting on extra buses to cope with extended journey times and different routes.Managing director of Stagecoach Devon Chris Hilditch explained: "It's now obviously a longer route so to run the same timetable and service we need more buses."We think it's also going to cost us a little bit in revenue because people are deciding not to come into town. It's a nuisance for them. We haven't calculated it as yet but I would estimate a loss of around £1,000 a week.

"The council says it has put up information signs and held an information day to make sure people are aware of the new arrangements.The seafront, from Belgrave Road to the Pavilion, has been closed to all traffic since Monday and will remain so for at least the next two weeks while 35 dangerous trees are felled along Rock Walk by a 65-tonne crane.

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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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