Paignton
Neighbourhood Forum

Series

Demand the Best

Title

Station Square and Torbay Road

Protagonists

The People of Paignton and Visitors to Paignton.

Torbay Council, TDA, et al.

Author

Richard Kaskow and Chris Harvey

Plot

Paignton Community Demands the Best

Hot on the heels of our recent campaign to 'Save our Promenade', we are now focusing on the town centre, in particular Station Square, one of the Paignton Masterplan 'Refresh' projects.

At the partnership's July meeting with officers of Torbay Council and the TDA, partnership member Richard Kaskow made it quite clear that the current proposal by local architects Kay Elliott was a non-starter. Quite simply, no changes had been made to the volume or directions of the flow of traffic running through Torbay Road, in around the level crossing. The whole area becomes gridlocked every 30 minutes or so, when the trains come through. The result is signicant build up of pedestrians and vehicles along with noise and pollution increasing to an unacceptable level. This environment is totally incompatible with the desire to make it a 'sticky space'; a pleasant town space where people can meet up, stop and linger, have a drink or just watch the world go by. Millions would have been spent on the project, for nothing more than a cosmetic makeover, in the partnership's opinion.

'I was told, I was a lone voice back in 2019, when the architects plans were first consulted on at an invitation only meeting in the library. I had prepared very clear sketches for this event, to show how the proposed scheme was flawed, as well as how to pedestrianise it', said Mr Kaskow.

Technical reports and heat maps showing pedestrian routes may have been produced, when all that is needed sometimes is a common sense approach, just look and listen and talk with the locals. I have a special interest in the public realm; the spaces between the buildings, having worked in the built environment all my life. The starting point for Paignton is being one of the finest Victorian Towns in the westcountry – a garden town by the seaside. It's a real beauty, when it comes to Victorian town planning. We must enhance its character, its local distinctiveness.

At the recent meeting Mr Kaskow referred to the Masterplan. The main objective of the masterplan is stated as creating a variety of pedestrian-led enhancements for the urban environment that are attractive and purposeful. More specifically:-

Point 3. The pedestrianisation of Victoria Street extends both east and west to improve connectivity between the seafront and Winner Street. They include parts of Torbay Road, etc.

Point 5. The level crossing area on Torbay Road will be free of traffic thus helping to create a town square environment and make the level crossing safer. (i.e., free from general vehicular traffic)

So, I was not a lone voice at all, quite the contrary with hundreds, if not thousands of local people making their voice heard through the neighbourhood plan process and the community partnership consultation, with our community shop in Crossways.

The partnership have now received notification from the TDA, for a follow up meeting in August, to re-visit the project, so just maybe they are listening this time. We very much hope so. 'It will be a first', said Mr Kaskow, as the partnership has not received any details for progressing the sea wall project yet. The TDA's view in that respect, is that once the paranoia has ended, they will be able to get on with it!! So, back to Station Square, with nothing lost except for tens of thousands of pounds already spent on the current scheme. The plan now is to look again at this area, along with rest of Torbay Road with PJA, another consultant being brought in on the latter. Hopefully a cordinated, comprehensive scheme will result through genuine engagement with all the stakeholders - the shopkeepers, taxi drivers, emergency services, and locals.

We must get it right first time, our town has waited far too long for refreshments!

Act Of Intrigue

We seem to be rushing into a beautification project at odds with the consulted Masterplan.

Opening Clues

Well, there are none and plenty, depending on your understanding of what's been going on, or not.

It all started so well...

Info

Refresh

The 2015 Masterplan for Paignton, called 'Refresh', is a Supplementary Planning Document adopted back in 2015. It is an excellent piece of work by Stride Treglown with proposals resulting from careful analysis and proper consultation. It also included work by both the neighbourhood forum and community partnership, again involving extensive consultation.

The main objective of the masterplan is stated as creating a variety of pedestrian-led enhancements for the urban environment that are attractive and purposeful. One of the key aspirations is to declutter the streetscape.

Clue

More specifically the two relevant key points on page 16 are:-

Point 3. The pedestrianisation of Victoria Street extends both east and west to improve connectivity between the seafront and Winner Street. They include parts of Torbay Road etc.

Point 5. The level crossing area on Torbay Road will be free of traffic thus helping to create a town square environment and make the level crossing safer. (meaning: free from general vehicular traffic)

Unbeknownest to many, Victoria Street starts at the level crossing gates.

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The Paignton Masterplan is what's called a "Supplementary Planning Document". That means it's a material consideration when determining the outcome of planning applications.

Supplementary planning documents (SPDs) should build upon and provide more detailed advice or guidance on policies in an adopted local plan.

These images are important within the consulted Masterplan: Their intent is to provide us with a look-and-feel of the proposals. The one above is a view looking towards Victoria Street (assuming you're standing in front of the Picture House). Note the complete lack of cars.

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With the Picture House behind you, you are now looking towards the (current) tattoo parlour... which, along with the other few shops in that block, have been demolished to make way for a new Town Square, which leads all the way back into Victoria Square (to replace the decrepit area in front of the Lidl supermarket).

The main building houses a cinema with a view to getting rid of the white concrete block (aka the Vue Cinema) that eliminates all views of the sea... that thingy otherwise known as: Paignton's main selling point. The festival Theatre (as it thenn was) was supported by the council in 1967. Someone clearly thought it would be a good idea... did no-one say: "hang on a minute..."?

Note the total absence of cars.

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Here we are at the top of Victoria Street, standing on Torquay Road and looking towards the start of Dartmouth Road (with Palace Avenue on the right). In the consulted Masterplan it's called Palace Square.

Note the (near) total absence of cars. There's one hidden behind the big tree. It looks more like a van, so it's probably a delivery van. So, that's ok. But wait... The plan idea is to route traffic to Torquay down Palace Avenue and then along Torquay Road (as it currently runs). 

So this image of virtually no cars is totally misleading.

 

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Now we're on Hyde Road (looking towards Torquay, with 'Crossways' on the left). Note that the traffic is two-way, and as such, is the main route through Paignton. There are only two cars on the road, so this must be at midnight. There are a lot of people out enjoying the midnight activities though.

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And finally, back to Station Square... lots of happy people and no cars! This is the nonsense of calling this area a "shared space". It only works if there is a minimal number of vehicles (like Fleet Street in Torquay).

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After the 2015 Masterplan is in place

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After years of consultation on the Masterplan, we now see a proposal of how it could be implemented.

The buildings are all brightly-lightly coloured giving us a nice happy feeling. The image is wide-angle, making the view larger and more open than in reality. There's lots of (ugly) pampas grass and a lovely sky. So that's all good.

On the downside, there appears nothing pedestrianised about the proposal. The traffic flows are exactly as they are now. The same old trick is used: to show fewer vehicles (and never show lorries).

The giant pebbles are nice though.

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Now we take to the skies. A pointless view that no-one will ever see (except the residents of 20-storey tower blocks on Victoria Square... just kidding!).

It appears that by putting brown bricks on the tarmac surface of the road, all cars, lorries, and buses will be frightened away! This, of course means that the diners and coffee drinkers in the new café (right there in the centre) will NOT be breathing petrol and diesel fumes every time the level crossing gates are lowered. Phew, pollution problem solved.

On a serious note (and it is very serious), this is grossly misleading.

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You don't need to know what all the little numbers mean... everything in the image above is cosmetic.

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Misleading again. Lots of happy people (the chap with the child on his shoulders, the one bicycle, ...) and the one small car waiting giving priority to the people.

Lots of birds though.

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Apart from the fumes-filled café, this image is important because it shows the idea that Victoria Street (top-left) is an extension of Torbay Road (leading up Palace Avenue to Winner Street).

We resisted the temptation to photoshop 9-foot monoliths up Victoria Street.

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Firming up... on not-masterplan

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So, we're in the middle of 2017 and we have:

- Happy people.

- A few bicycles (and even a runner).

- A few plants.

- Imaginative lighting.

No lorries, buses, and cars!

This is a shared-space with lots of courtesy crossings (where the lorries, buses, and cars -- that aren't there anyway -- with stop-start for the people cauually walking, running, and cycling).

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The dashed-red lines are the vehicles, the dotted-green lines are the people. There are two major points of note here:

1. The dotted-green people line from Victoria Street to Torbay Road is very important. The main thrust behind the consulted Masterplan pedestrianisation is that Torbay Road all the way up Victoria Street, through Palace Avenue, and on to Winner Street should be one easy to navigate thoroughfare.

2. The council's own analysis shows that people cross station square any which way, taking their chances because of the constant stream of lorries, buses, and cars. People won't follow the green dots (even if they were painted on the ground).

 

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An illustration showing the many cosmetic changes.

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Another illustration showing the many cosmetic changes (but with more trees).

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Detail of the many cosmetic changes.

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Yet another illustration showing the many cosmetic changes.

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Where we are now

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Having departed from the consulted Masterplan, and a couple of glossy documents around 2017, the council has now found some money to implement the cosmetic changes proposed.

Apparantly, there has been "transport planning" and "traffic engineering" in the meantime... which has led to precisely the same traffic flows that have been there all along.

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The current proposal was put together for the Future High Street Fund bid. The awarded £13.36 million, however, largely does not cover this proposal (which the government dismissed as 'beautification').

The above layout beautifies parts of Torbay Road whilst still allowing two-way traffic as now... a strange type of pedestrianisation.

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Narrowing the road doesn't reduce traffic, it just bunches it up. More stop-start, more pollution, more impatient drivers pushing forward through pedestrians.

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This is the middle bit of Torbay Road that already has a brown bricks surface instead of tarmac. The proposal is to narrow the road (bunching up the traffic) and put in more seats.

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Here's a pseudo-photo of the previous plan, looking down Garfield Road. There roadway doesn't look narrower... and where have all the vehicles gone?

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On the Esplanade (at the bottom-end of Torbay Road, the Vue cinema is conveniently hidden behind instant 20-year trees) the proposal puts in another "courtesy crossing".  The traffic flows remain the same.

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Looking up Torbay Road towards the railway station. Widening the pavements is good. But, the two-lanes of traffic remain, as does a lot of the on-street parking.

Gotta love the bunting though!

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Put down interesting road surfaces and the vehicles will stop coming... apparantly.

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Somewhere along the line

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Somewhere along the passage of time, the council published (with no other documentation... that we can find) this illustration of a replacement for the Victorian building opposite the exit to the railway station. 

It's clearly a very thoughtful and beautiful design that enhances Paignton's town centre. At some point the council thought the same about the Poundland/Woolworths building.

The council will tell you that this is simply an illustration of what "could be", and that no specific proposals have been received from developers, yet.

The history of Paignton seems replete with "could be" illustrations.

By the way, the current Victorian building is in a disgraceful state... the council seems powerless.

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Comments


Tuesday 3 August 2021 20:37
- Lionel Uden
It would be criminal to replace the existing Victorian buildings adjacent to what is now the Ladbroke betting shop with an unimaginative Soviet era concrete block. Surely it isn’t beyond the whit of architects to refurbish the existing buildings ? Or at least keep their frontage. These buildings have a lot more architectural interest in their frontages than the hideous, rectangular garbage that will all to soon become the new Crossways; i.e. the eyesore that we are trying hard to get rid of now. For an example of “modern architecture “ you only have to go a hundred yards along Torbay Road and look at the block that now houses the Toy Masters and other shops. And just look at the unimaginative block that replaced Dellas Cafe.

A better way forward

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Station Square

Back in 2019, members of the community partnership were invited to a consultation in the library along with other stakeholders. Kay Elliott had already produced a scheme with two lanes of traffic going through the level crossing area. So, the most fundamental decision affecting this part of town had already been made – no other option was put forward by the consultants, or discussed, apart from adding that it would be a shared surface/sticky space!!!! The result will see no change to the serious congestion occurring every 30 minutes, when the trains come through with in excess of 50 cars waiting, sometimes with no trains in sight.

Noise and air pollution levels are likely to be the highest in the whole of Torbay and the Council's plan is to get people to stop, stay and enjoy the square. You cannot be serious!

However, PTCP vice chair Richard Kaskow produced a set of illustrations for that meeting to clearly show how the traffic could be reduced to a single lane, going west (only) through the level crossing. Importantly, it would be further reduced in volume by restricting it to emergency vehicles, tourist buses and taxis travelling at 10mph. Access for coal deliveries and staff vehicles for the Dartmouth Steam Railway was raised by a company representative present at the meeting. The scheme was presented to TDA regeneration officer Pat Steward and others with the drawings photographed.

Mr Kaskow also raised the idea of pedestrianisation with Mr Steward, to include Torbay Road and was told the businesses did not want this to happen. Recent community partnership contact has found that they knew nothing about it. We have in fact, found them excited by the opportunity. At the time, most of Torbay Road, apart from the section in front of the Picture House was not being considered for any improvement work.

Contact with Network Rail was also suggested, over acquiring the use of their land currently forming part of the very wide station platform, immediately adjacent to the taxi rank. The purpose would be to site the taxis further backward, so freeing up more space for pedestrians, as well as providing the same amount of room for the taxis. Did Pat Steward pursue this suggestion?

Further, the new station square is almost certain to be the main town square for years to come, if not forever, so it must be traffic free and the best we can achieve from day one.

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The town square in the masterplan does in fact depend on demolishing the buildings on the left hand side (the tattoo shop amongst others), running down into Victoria Square. Has anyone talked to the owners of these buildings, along with the owners of the Poundland/Sports Direct shops, as this building is also shown to be redeveloped with a new pedestrian link incorporated from Station Square to Victoria Park?

Multi storey car park

The future of the multi storey car park also needs to be reconsidered given the demand from the new hotels, loss of on-street parking on Torbay Road, likely desired loss of parking during peak times on the seafront between the Cinema and Pier. There would also be a loss if the bus station moves and the rest of the land redeveloped, similarly if the land behind the library is redeveloping losing yet another car park.

Other aspects

Details of other aspects noted on the sketch plans by Richard Kaskow to follow in full report.

Conclusion

  • The revised pedestrianisation proposal for Station Square will dictate what happens on Torbay Road, regarding the level of traffic/parking/pedestrianisation options.

  • Torbay Council/TDA to confirm they will revise their proposal.

  • It is suggested that all detailed work is halted to allow time to fully consult all sections of the community, in particular the most affected; that is emergency departments, taxis, businesses and residents in Torbay Road.

  • There will be strong objection by the community, if the Council persists with the current scheme for Station Square, albeit we have not seen any plans on Station Square since 2019.

Comment

Comments


Tuesday 3 August 2021 20:41
- Lionel Uden
It’s time to fully grasp the nettle regarding pedestrianisation in Paignton. Make the road in front of the post office two way so that it shares the job of main thoroughfare with Winner Street. ( note; Winner Street was originally the Main Street of Paignton) Make Hyde road a dead end with delivery only. Make Torbay Road and station square entirely pedestrian. Vehicle access for the railway station would be from Dartmouth Road and a dead end. The bus station already works, in and out from Dartmouth Road. Retain as much of the Victorian buildings as possible, even if just their frontages are kept.. it was done along Fleet Walk in Torquay. We need to put ideas before the people of Paignton and have a proper survey of opinions/ideas..

Thursday 5 August 2021 08:03
- Stuart Lewton
As a holiday accommodation provider in Pagnton since 2008 and with two properties housing mainly tourists we have had much feedback from our guests over the past 13 years and they all say how great it would be if Torbay Road were padestrianized, With street cafes, pubs, restaurants and shops providing alfresco dining and weekly markets to mooch around. Paignton is ideally situated to house a market that will attract locals and holidaymakers all year round. Offering arts and crafts, local produce and a safe area for people to meet and enjoy fume free eating and drinking. If you look at the example of Cardiff bay Portsmouth and their padestrianisation you will see how this can revitalise the whole area with better eateries and an all day usage from 08:00 until late night. Making Paignton town much better than Torquay harbourside due to the mix of food and retails offerings. Closing Torbay road to traffic will stop the buildup of traffic and fumes on Hyde road when the trains come in and the barriers are down. Yes some people will be upset, just as they were with the Geoplay park and how that was going to destroy the green. However once they are used to the idea they will see what a real asset a padestrianised Paignton, from Palace Avenue to the seafront will be to the area. Cleaner living a highstreet tobe proud of and improved buildings and housing in the town center. Paignton needs to move with the times, it is currently about 30 years behind other towncenters and survives due to the influx of holiday makers in the summer. It needent be this way, it can be viberant all year around and be a destination that people will want to return to again and again as well as a place to live and be proud off.

Thursday 5 August 2021 09:38
- Robert Vincent
I think the council has to decide on what shopping is required and where.. They already expect to lose 50% of shops in Torquay and Paignton. Crossways is reducing the retail element from 30 shops and a supermarket to about 8 small retail units. I would abandon Palace Avenue immediately round the gardens returning the shops to the houses that many were. Flats are already proposed above Glendevon. Some cafes and shops could remain at The Torquay Road end and Winner Street end such as the Coop. My radical departure from the 2015 plan would be to return two way traffic to Torquay Road and not Hyde Road which would just have two way access road as far as the service road south of Dendy Road. The rest of Hyde Road South would be pedestrianised right down into Torbay Road as far as Queens Road and South along Western Road to the bus station. The rest of Western Road would be two way access only as far as the station and bus station with no through traffic at all. This would pedestrianise a vast area and still maintain access to the shops and station. Palace Avenue would become a residential oval similar to other towns garden squares. Winner Street because of lack of hotels and is always going to be difficult to promote as a tourist area being so far from the sea and will have to rely on local support,

Acknowledgements

The People of Paignton

Last Updated: Monday 20 September 2021

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