What could Torbay’s town centres be like in the future?

Nothing says more about a town than its centre. It is the place that brings people together from across all its neighbourhoods, as well as from overseas, nearby cities, towns and villages. The centre is a town’s heart and will be the part of town that most residents and visitors will know.  Rightly or wrongly, it will be the place that determines the view of many people of the town in its entirety.  Put simply, town centres matter.

In order to arrest the decline of Torbay’s town centres there needs to be much more emphasis on, and investment in, consumer experience. Consumers need to understand, implicitly, how a town centre works; there needs to be more on offer in the town centres including leisure, food, events – a greater, much more attractive and vibrant mix of uses; the character and history of a place needs to shine through; digital information is and will become increasingly important to the consumer.

Successful town centre regeneration must and will include improvements to public spaces.  Experience from other places and from soft market testing shows that investment in public realm improvements, wayfinding, key building frontages and other infrastructure improvements are essential to delivering a wider place making agenda. Good place making, coupled with high quality development on key sites, will deliver community benefits and will increase property values.  It will help drive further investment.

The following is not intended to be prescriptive, but it does provide an illustration of the way in which Torbay’s town centres could change and improve over the next 10 years.

In Torquay, the approach to regeneration is more focused on supporting market delivery, including:

  • A more aspirational retail and food offer at the lower end of the high street and around the harbour
  • More of a leisure and retail offer from Market Street to the lower end of the Fleet Street
  • Retaining some of the larger and good quality retail space to the upper end of Union Street
  • Encouraging more homes, office space and leisure space
  • Leading to more residents and workers in the town centre, more visitors in the town centre, improved townscape and access and better quality and more accessible parking.

In Paignton, a more interventionist approach is proposed, with the following outcomes:

  • More people living and working in town centre
  • Improve public realm and physical fabric, especially around the rail and bus station area, the main road and pedestrian junctions
  • Better connecting the community with the coast, the town centre and harbour.

The Town Centre Car Park site in Brixham is a recent addition to the town centres regeneration programme. This is timely, in part because the community has produced a major mixed use scheme, including retail, residential, hotel, commercial space, which needs further work to deliver it, and bring investment into Fore Street.

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