A retired solicitor has put together a vision of how Torquay can look and prosper in the future.
Gillian Fazan, whose late husband John Hoyle was a developer and born in the resort, has devoted many man hours producing a 45-page document suggesting ways to improve the town centre and make it attractive again.
She has submitted her imaginative proposals to Torbay Council and Torbay Development Agency in a bid to give Torquay a ‘beating heart’.
She explained to Torbay Weekly: “Torquay used to be such a beautiful place but now it’s run down and dilapidated and it is such a shame.”
Her husband died last year but Gillian said: “Like me, he was very concerned at the decline of our town and keen to see its regeneration.
“I have thought about the subject a lot and want to to contribute to its revival.”
One of her main themes is to ‘paint the place prosperous’ by introducing colour to buildings.
She believes colour has a positive effect on behaviour and would make shop fronts more attractive and appealing using examples such as Copenhagen, said to be the happiest place in the world, and closer to home, Clifton in Bristol.
She added: “My central proposal would make the place look fun and alive and have social benefit.”
She describes Torquay’s post war architecture as ‘brutal’.
Her report states: “Torquay must now make itself beautiful and prosperous, by painting itself pretty, re-purposing some large premises while demolishing the most brutal post war buildings.
“These need replacing them with useful, open public spaces, creating small affordable premises, providing opportunities for our own people to run their own businesses, which will make Torquay’s shopping experience unique.
“Re-routing traffic, and allowing on-street parking, will bring back the buzz to the high street and relaxation to the seaside and harbour.
“The £25 million will not be anywhere near enough, but it will help and, if the council partners with others, and seeks some crowd funding, these proposals need not be unattainable.”
She says her report took some time to put together but that she has had an ‘enthusiastic’ response from residents.
Many of Gillian’s suggestions are based on positive examples elsewhere.
She believes a sponsored street art festival would be a good start and says Bristol, Hull and Cheltenham have benefited from such events.
Large empty shops and buildings should be repurposed as language schools, galleries, art and craft space and offices.
More on street parking is essential as shops benefit from more traffic of which the main street in Totnes is a good example.
Too many of the big shop units have unsustainable rents, particularly for independent traders.
Gillian said: “Looking round Torquay, virtually every development in the town centre and harbour, apart from keeping the water in the inner harbour and bridge, is hideous and has robbed the town of its heritage and charm.
“Successive councils in the last 75 years bear a heavy responsibility for the mess Torquay is today.
“When high streets have been failing up and down the land and household names in the retail sector are going bust, and when it is very far from clear what a post-Covid 19, online world will be like, now is not the time for extravagant high street style development, or for more café culture.”
Gillian believes small shops run by locals generate ‘diversity, interest, uniqueness and pride, and small businesspeople who live here, keep and spend their profits in the bay’.
She says that kind of difference and success needs replicating, but with different things and at different prices.
She concluded: “Torquay has become a very drab place, beige all over.
“The centre is incredibly ugly, ruined by post war development, which the council no doubt thought just the thing at the time.
“Torquay does not need any more of it.
“That means looking after what we have properly and developing culture, colour and interest.”