When the old car park was demolished at the heart of Brixham many, many moons ago, it was feared it would be years before anything was found to replace the gaping hole left behind.
The so-called 'Black Hole of Brixham' has remained just that - an ugly eyesore.
Nine years ago, a large Tesco supermarket was planned for the site. Tesco subsequently pulled out.
A mixed use and small-scale development was mooted including houses, shops and other uses.
Flats and car parking spaces was another plan. And only recently proposals have been aired for “affordable homes.”
But could there be some light at the end of the tunnel at last?
If Neil Worrell and Vicky Pritchard-Davies have their way the answer is yes - and the town could boast its own Eden-style project with its very own Hanging Gardens of Brixham!
No, I haven't been at the cooking sherry and Neil and Vix couldn't be more serious.
They have been determined to see a better and brighter future for Brixham since they first got together as friends in 2018.
Vix says: "“It started when I got cancer. I was having my head shaved to raise money. Neil said it was a great cause but should we be supporting charities here in Brixham?"
A community Interest Company was formed and Lighting Up Brixham subsequently raised £15,000 for Christmas lights.
Covid got in the way a little for future fund-raising projects but the duo still managed to conjure up the Walk of Fame where a series of cast-iron plates on the Breakwater are etched with individual names to celebrate both locals and those who love Brixham, past and present. The first name on the plates was Jackie Robinson, Neil’s wife, who died in 2017 of a brain tumour.
Next came the Hanging Gardens of Brixham...
The Lighting Up Brixham website says: "Brixham is so much more than its harbour. And the car park at its centre is currently an eye-sore - and been for almost two decades.
"When you arrive in Brixham, there is little sense of excitement until you get to the inner harbour. As a town it’s got to be our priority to change that and make the sense of arrival dramatic, beautiful, and functional."
The development would comprise two floors of car parking for about 300 spaces, with 50 flats above – topped by a dramatic new public garden space an acre in size.
Within the garden there would be a restaurant at one end and a bar at the other. In the middle where the public enter are various kiosks selling coffee, cakes and snacks.
Curved laminated timber arches would create a visual sheath to the garden - anchored together and tied by a network of stainless-steel cables like the rigging on a ship to shine at night..
Neil has spent a lifetime as a chartered architect helping to deliver development projects worth many millions of pounds all around the world.
He moved to Brixham in 2012 and refurbished St Peter's Church (now Fisherman's Church). He then operated and restored the Golden Hind and then turned his attention to charity work and town improvements.
He has worked on houses, flats, university and agricultural buildings, on laboratories, zoos and a variety of other retail and commercial projects. He also worked as a specialist architectural planner for a global hotel company, working on the design of over 500 international hotel projects.
He says: "We have been looking at this for about two years. We were thinking of four or five-star hotels. Then we simplified it with car parking, flats and a garden on the top. It was a ‘hey presto’ moment. It is commercially viable.
“We want permanent improvements for this town. We do not want to do something that is forgotten tomorrow."
Vix says: "Neil has had a meeting with TDA and the idea was presented at an event to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the Brixham Town Hall at the weekend. It went down very well.”
She adds: "What’s not to like? A beautiful 'green-heart' bang smack in the middle of the most vibrant fishing village in England? This will be world class. It will be a solution to a problem which has blighted Brixham for almost two decades. The Ugly Duckling car park will really be turned into an Elegant Swan."
Neil says: "To achieve great things you have to dream big dreams."
Big? More like gigantic. Can they pull it off?
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