An open letter from Nigel Makin on behalf of Brixham Chamber to Robert Excell and Kevin Mowatt, Torbay Council.

I’m writing to you on behalf of the Brixham Chamber of Commerce, Brixham residents, Brixham visitors and potential investors in Brixham.

The “subject” title originates from Brixham trader and resident Jake Fairall of Fairall’s Fruit & Veg

“This will kill the town centre, this will turn off our local traders. This will kill off an already dying town”

You could say its emotive but it represents the fears, concerns and trepidation of the pending arrival of yet more car parking tariffs further to yet more car parking reviews

This e mail focuses on Brixham and the central car park (and so it should as its key to Brixhams’ prosperity and key to the final contribution it makes to the Council to the tune of £400,00 per year. But the majority of the content is applicable across the bay.

Please read Brixham traders’ feedback – they are your business partners and from 2020 will pay the councils business rates.

I am totally frustrated that further to what was seen as an absorbing, engaging, open consultation process last year during which it seemed that the council listened and took on board many of the issues, proposals and aspirations that now, at the stroke of a pen that all of the positive feelings have disappeared.

When the “out of season tariffs” were introduced in November last year they were generally seen as fair, easy to understand, encouraged repeat parking / visits to the town and therefore repeat visits to the shops and other buisinesses in fact they ticked most of the boxes in the Councils’ Vision:

“To provide a fair and consistent approach to the way we promote and manage parking while supporting the Council’s ambition to create a ‘Prosperous and Healthy’ Torbay”

Tariffs starting at 50p for ½ hour and then rising in 50p increments for every ½ hour eg £2.00 for two hours. The fact that this was duplicated in many of the car parks around Brixham (and around the bay as a whole) was a massive step forward.

  • It was seen to be “fair” as it didn’t rip people off for example by asking them to put 70p- in the machine knowing that most would only have a £1.00 coin and change would not be issued.
  • It was seen to be “consistent” as it was across the bay (enabling residents and visitors to plan their journeys knowing that if a Brixham resident drove to Paignton town center you could take a 50p piece and know that you could park for ½ an hour and consistent that it covered all types of parking and all locations.
  • The third part of the “vision” which was “promotion” and sadly, even though the council had introduced this excellent tariff there was very little shouting of or promotion of and therefore I would fair guess that a lot of residents would not even know that they could visit their local fruit and veg shop for as little as 50p instead of driving out to Aldi (50p parking in the town centre is a powerful message but an opportunity sadly missed).

It will be very difficult therefore to fully understand the financial impact and potential of this tariff to the council. It was seen to be a key element in creating a “prosperous and healthy Torbay” as it was encouraging town centre visits and more importantly repeat town centre visits ensuring that traders and also the council would benefit from these repeat visits

Councillor Robert Excell, Executive Lead for Community Services, said: “Since last year’s winter parking promotion, and following feedback from residents through the recent Parking Survey, we have listened and a number of changes have been made. These winter prices are still cheaper than the summer charges and I am sure these will be welcomed by residents and businesses alike, and will entice residents to visit our town centres throughout the winter period.

Totally agree with all aspects of this statement Robert (which you wrote at the release of the “winter” tariffs in November 2016) and I believed at the time it was the start of a new dawn in terms of listening, feedback, consistency and action. I also think it’s fair to say at this juncture that our views on car parking tariffs are not all about “cheap” or reductions as we fully endorsed the increase of the street parking 20p tariffs (street parking Paignton and Torquay) to 50p which I’m sure generated much needed additional income.

The new tariff structure has gone totally against the whole principal of the process which was instigated last year, it has been “designed” by officers without any consultation/feedback i.e. how its always been. We genuinely hope that you can repeat the words “I am sure these will be welcomed by residents and businesses alike, and will entice residents to visit our town centres throughout the summer period” we fear not!

You stated that one of the justifications for the new £1.00 min 30-minute stay is that from now onwards the bay (and Brixham in particular) is full of visitors. This is not the case. The busy times for visitors are Bank holidays, “event weekends” and the key summer months of July and August.

It has been said that the visitors won’t mind paying the £1.00 “entry level”. This is not a visitor tariff, they won’t come all the way to Brixham to stay for 30 mins, they will stay for 2, 3, 4 hours or possinbly longer. The £1.00 tariff is for locals / residents and visiting commercial activity eg dropping off deliveries and supplies…………………NOT visitors, which means that the “DRIP, DRIP, DRIP” FEED OVER THE WINTER OF THE 50P TARIFF WILL BE LOST, LOST TO THE TRADERS, LOST TO RESIDENTS AND LOST TO THE COUNCIL. From my very own personal experience I have visitd the Central Car Park and Breakwater car park some 30 times over the winter @ 50p per time, a fee psychologically I did not mind paying coming down for milk, bacon, eggs, paper, coffee an such like. That will now finish, full stop. I will not pop down to town and spend a £1. 00 for thirty minutes, my trade will be going to Sainsbury Local or  Costcutter and I’m just one of many.

It has been said that the tariffs are good for local trade, please then read the feedback from a fair selection of traders. NONE are supportive and NONE think it will help their businesses. Are they really all wrong?

It has been said that Brixham is doing “OK” , that its Paignton and Torquay that are struggling town centres. This is a fallacy, when did officers last walk down Brixham Fore Street and see currently 10 empty shops out of some 50? People see Brixham as being the harbourside is 90% populated most of the time, but the harbour and town centre are totally different entities. The town centre (including the car park) is a disaster area, strong words but factual in many ways. Closed shops, tatty street, lack of investment, lack of interest from Torbay. Its not somewhere you would choose to shop and this situation has now been made somewhat worse with the new tariffs. Sainsbury local, Aldi, Sainsbury Supermarket, Asda, Morrisons are all better served and all have free car parking.

It has been said that we have cheap car parking in Torbay compared with similar seaside destinations like Brighton and Bournemouth. On this topic, I think we need a reality check. Torbay is not Bournemouth or Brighton. Brighton is an affluent town within the commuter belt of London with average house prices double those of Torbay. Bournemouth is a key financial centre with one of the most expensive places in Europe to live right on its doorstep (Poole), these locations can stand much higher car parking charges compared with Torbay, a more realistic comparison for Torbay can I suggest would be Great Yarmouth.

Business rates: by 2020 Torbay Council will retain all its business rates for re investment into local services. This is the time to be looking at cost effective tariffs, driving footfall into our shopping areas, going out into the market to attract new retails to fill our empty shops with a strong clear message that the council have a strategic plan when it comes to car parking, one which is fair , consistent, revenue generating and ensures that our high streets will be vibrant, busy areas all year round, night and day. If we are to maximize business rate revenue, then we need fully occupied high streets. From a personal point of view, I’ve just took on a roll in the Chamber looking after Town Centre Regeneration, I’m looking to attract new retailers / businesses to Brixham Town centre. One of the key elements of any town center experience is the car parking facilities and tariffs, the car park in Brixham has been a disgrace for the last 20 years, the tariff “strategy” is a throwback to previous years.

Finally: all the above communicates in the strongest sense that the new tariffs are ultimately going to be bad for business and bad for the council, so on behalf of Torbay residents, traders and visitors and Brixham residents, traders and visitors, please CANCEL with immediate effect your proposed tariff change, go through the “summer” with the current solution, advertise it, promote it, shout about it. Giving a tariff structure less than 5 months to prove its validity is unrealistic. The Chancellor has just done a “U” turn on the national insurance contributions for self-employed.

Be brave and do a “U”, lest not be responsible for  “Killing off a dying town”