Controversial Queen Street ‘enhancements’ in Newton Abbot

Torbay Weekly

Potential changes to Queen Street, Newton Abbot have been met with concerns.

The proposals are designed to make the area between Courtenay Street and the railway station a more “attractive, safe and healthy place for shoppers and businesses” with more space for pedestrians.

Under the plan, which will go out to public consultation, around £1 million would be spent on widening footways, introducing traffic restrictions, new crossings and, where possible, enhanced greening and seating.

The exact scheme is still being developed.

But members of Teignbridge’s highways and traffic orders committee raised several issues at their meeting this week, most notably around the planned “significant reduction of on-street parking” and the impact of new traffic restrictions.

They include restricted access to general traffic on Queen Street, west of Albany Street, including no vehicle access between King Street and Queen Street and one-way vehicular access on Hopkins Lane.

Restricted access to general traffic at the southern end of Lemon Road is also proposed, with two-way cycles permitted, in addition to a 20 mph speed limit for Queen Street, west of The Avenue.

A report to the committee said the changes: “aim to make everyone feel safe and welcome, with more space for pedestrians to enjoy and access shops and services, improved accessibility, cleaner air and less noise pollution.”

But discussing the proposals, Councillor Phil Bullivant (Conservative, Newton Abbot North) thought the emphasis was “wrong” and wanted more focus on trees, street furniture (such as benches) and lighting to help develop the town’s night-time economy and reduce crime.

In response, highways officer Josh Manning said the government’s future high streets fund, which will provide the majority of funding, did not allow its money to be spent on such “beautification,” so it would have to be found from other sources.

He added that planting trees could risk narrowing pavements they were actually widening, while the roots could make it difficult for people with accessibility problems.

Regarding the traffic reduction and parking removal, Cllr Bullivant’s concerns included the potential impact on deliveries to businesses in the area.

Councillor Mike Hocking (Ind, Bradley) was also critical: “As it stands at the moment, this will just get thrown right out by the people living and using Newton Abbot town centre” he said.

Suggesting highways officers go back to the drawing board to liaise with people in the area, he concluded: “I don’t think this is the right plan for this area.”

Councillor Alistair Dewhirst (Lib Dem, Ipplepen & The Kerswells) added: “I have real concern about the businesses to the east of Albany Street, which are mostly ‘pop and shop-style’ businesses. Removing any parking from those areas would be really detrimental to those businesses.”

But Councillor Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Kenton & Starcross), leader of Teignbridge District Council, thought that end of Queen Street wasn’t ‘pop and shop’, referring to a number of cafés and restaurants.

“It’s actually quite a vibrant shopping centre. I don’t know if it’s the kind of place that people pull up to, like you do a newsagents, and pop in and buy a newspaper or a bag a sweets. People go there for a purpose.”

Referring to Cllr Hocking’s comment, he added: “Sometimes actually that’s the whole point of a consultation.”

Cllr Connett concluded: “I think we’ve got to get on with it. I think the future high streets fund is a solid, good investment for Newton Abbot. And it’s good to see that we’re not sitting around saying ‘well just because it’s been that way for a long time, that it’s incapable of improvement.’”

“I think there is improvement and I think actually we need to do what’s proposed, but with that caveat that we need to have the report back from the consultation.”

Councillor Janet Bradford (Newton Says No, College) later said: “I just think this is the wrong plan for Queen Street. It is a pop and shop [area],” adding that businesses are “very worried” about taking away parking.

Despite the reaction, a majority of the committee voted to put the plans out to public consultation and to allow minor changes to be made before then. A report with the results will be brought to a future meeting.