Jim Parker: Plans for a new Torbay Hospital car park are thrown out- Now is the Time to talk

Cllr Rob Loxton concerned for the safety of staffCllr Rob Loxton concerned for the safety of staff

It is becoming more and more of an issue and it isn’t going to go away sometime soon – parking at Torbay Hospital or, rather, the lack of it.

I live in the Chelston area of Torquay not far from the main Shiphay Lane and hospital’s main Newton Road campus.

Parking, especially for hospital staff, was once a massive issue for Shiphay residents living in close proximity to the site.

Residents-only parking zones have helped but all that has done is to push the problem further afield into other areas.

You will see the workers battle for places just the other side of the double yellow lines at places like Queensway where views are blocked and driving becomes dangerous.

In no way am I blaming the workers. There simply is nowhere for them to park. God forbid it doesn’t get worse as the pandemic raises its dreadful head again.

There was an attempt from the local hospital trust to alleviate some of the problems with an application to planners only a few days ago.

The plans were for a staff hospital car park on open land on the other side of main and busy Riviera Way.

Hospital managers supported the scheme for a 250-space ‘Park and Stride’ near the County Court off Nicholson Road.

But the land is protected as a Local Green Space in the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan.

The hospital said the facility was vital for its redevelopment plans and because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But councillors raised safety concerns about staff crossing the busy multi-lane highway.

They were told that the hospital had not supplied enough information on issues including the impact of traffic and the ecology of the site.

They were also told that protected open land could only be developed in “very special circumstances”.

Cllr Barbara Lewis said the needs of the hospital were special circumstances which meant the car park should be permitted

But other councillors raised concerns about the safety of staff walking to the hospital.

Cllr Jack Dart said he supported the NHS and its staff, but the committee had to focus on planning issues.

He said: “The applicants should have provided the local authority with more information.”

Councillors were told that ecology surveys ahead of construction had to take place in the spring, which would create a delay.

They also heard at the meeting that no alternative sites had been considered.

The application was from Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and Belstone Fox Project Management Ltd.

The committee eventually refused the application by six votes to two, with one abstention. And now we are back to square one.

Rob Loxton is a ward councillor and lives in Shiphay as well as being the leader of the Independent group on the council.

He doesn’t sit on planning but said: “I was more concerned for the safety of the staff having to cross a dangerous road.”

He added as a resident: “It is a huge problem with the hospital staff parking everywhere. It is not only them either. It is the supermarket staff and workers from the Edginswell business park.”

There has been talk of the hospital ‘building up’ on the current site and park and ride sites at the nearby Willows, but nothing has so far come of either.

Cllr Loxton says the new rail halt planned for Edginswell could come as a blessing.

“It would see more staff using the train,” he said.

Torbay Council has applied for funding for the project but that isn’t going to be resolved overnight either.

I think Cllr Jackie Thomas probably suggested the best course of action at the meeting when she not only made a plea to the planning committee to allow the scheme to go ahead but more importantly said the hospital was a partner and the council should be working with it to find a solution …

We will leave it there for the time being