Sally Allen: Nightmare on Torwood Street!

Sally Allen's fashion boutique in Torwood Street, Torquay

Sally Allen is closing her shop to concentrate on her e-commerce fashion business. - Credit: Archant

When my shop was based in Babbacombe Business Park near The Range, we offered free parking, free coffee and occasionally something stronger!

Business was good and we had a very strong male following as, apart from my very popular Wizard Jeans, we stocked the very stylish Brook Taverner brand and, importantly, customers could just drive to the front of the store and leave their cars with no time limit or cost.

Sadly, the cliff started to crumble behind our premises and then we experienced some more dramatic rock falls.

The landlord and the council could not agree who was responsible, so, because our access started to get cordoned off due to ‘health and safety’, we exercised a break clause in our lease and moved out in December 2017 after three successful years.

Luckily, I have run my e-commerce fashion business since 2002 and therefore I have never been dependant on a retail outlet, but as I always hate to accept defeat, I decided to look for another spot to open a boutique.

In January 2019, on the basis of a new Hilton Hotel opening up and being so close to the harbour, I took over 32 Torwood Street and spent three months doing a total re-fit of the property and opened in the April.

How completely stupid I was – I had miscalculated on every level.

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I thought it couldn’t miss being a success but, of course, the builders were nearly a year late finishing the Hilton and during that period it was virtually impossible to gain access to our shop via the walkway due to the building works and it was also impossible to park because of all the trucks, and trucks and more trucks.

It was evident that nobody had given a thought about the dreadful fallout for the local traders.

Then, nobody could have foreseen, the dreaded Covid situation.

This devastated the miniscule trade that we had. Nightmare all round.

Then we started to open-up again in July last year but, of course, there was still nowhere for customers to park.

I can’t even park to deliver goods to my premises. Nightmare again.

Then we were closed-down a second time for Covid and didn’t open again until this April.

Well, of course, still nowhere for customers to park – or me. 

In May, in frustration I wrote in this column about the awful parking situation and suggested that the council should look at echelon/chevron parking as an alternative.

This eventually came to the notice of the council after I copied the column to a number of council members directly.

It was then suggested that I get the support of all the traders in Torwood Street to try to establish dialogue with the council’s ‘director of place’- yes, that is the title for the job!

Of course, it was easy to get everyone on-board, as they were all in the same boat as me and sick to death of the lack of parking for deliveries and customers, and to also receiving enough parking tickets to paper several large rooms!

This resulted in various Zoom meetings, which even with the people trying to do their best from the council’s side, has resulted in our getting one area extended to accommodate just another parking space. So not much change.

Even after the ‘shoppers car park’ in The Terrace, which historically serviced just shoppers, now needs to facilitate two large hotels’ guests, plus shoppers.

There is not sufficient room for the hotel guests, let alone any potential shoppers or restaurant goers.

Also, remember that there are still two large empty retail units underneath the Hilton still to be let, which will need parking facilities and God knows what will happen when the building work starts on the old Debenhams store – trucks, trucks and more trucks and parking issues, of course.

Not to mention the intended, as I understand it, flats being built above the old Debenhams store – where are these people going to park?

I understand the excitement and need to update and develop the area, and I agree it is long overdue, but you have to include proper and sufficient infrastructure for parking in the schemes otherwise they are doomed and the nightmare will continue.

The council shouldn’t be passing their own building plans without thought and provision for parking.

It is critical to ask local traders for input before they start digging!

Thank God I am closing my shop at the end of this month and my concentration will be 100 per cent on my e-commerce fashion business and not where I am going to have to park to deliver goods to my shop.