TONY BROWN St MaryChurch Road, Newton Abbot, writes:

I see that the plan for Queen Street has been approved, despite many complaints. Living a bare five miles away, Newton should be a place I visit frequently ‘for a change’.

However, It is probably 18 months since I visited the town centre itself, until today, when I thought I had better see what the fuss was about. Surely if the town is to thrive it needs to regularly attract its own inhabitants, tourists AND other locals?

A fundamental problem is that Newton doesn’t posses the major attraction of the sea.

The River Lemon wanders in a disinterested fashion through the town.

There are few stand out buildings.

To reach it visitors have to battle through ‘Newton 2’ the large shopping area with free parking around Tesco, that the planners in their wisdom have allowed to blossom and which seems specially designed to stop people accessing the centre.

I had originally thought the fuss was about losing free parking on Queen Street, but I note that it has to be paid for.

However, the chances of anyone being able to park directly outside the shop they want to ‘pop into’ for a few minutes is small. There are plenty of other well located car parks in easy reach-

I don’t know if they have sufficient capacity if the on street parking is removed.

It is a town of human proportions that is easy to walk round, the existing pedestrianised area is pleasant with its trees and paving, and most of the town looked well maintained.

Queen Street has a number of pleasant buildings, but overall is rather down at heel.

The pavements are much too narrow, as those pedestrians forced into the road can testify, and having a constant stream of cars passing through it doesn’t make it a pleasurable experience.

As people don’t need to go into town so often these days, as traditional activities of visiting the bank, post office, paying the gas bill etc are now largely redundant, so the question must be asked what purpose does Newton Abbot serve?

Fortunately, it retains sufficient diverse shops to be a potential draw if you can get into it and if you don’t mind paying the parking tax.

So for what its worth, my take is that upgrading of Queen Street is way overdue-provided sufficient parking can be found elsewhere.

However, town centres generally need to rethink their policy of penalising car drivers-paying a tax before they can spend money with local traders is a 20th century idea as there are no parking charges on the internet.

In turn they can’t expect to drive through and park where they want in a town of this size. More shops, better shops, more cafes, wider pavements, more greenery, more street life with outdoor seating at cafes, is surely in order, without cars belching fumes over you?

So Newton has lots of potential but with a need for added ‘oomph’ to encourage people such as me to make regular return visits and I will be easily deterred by mile long traffic jams and parking charges, when there is no coast, iconic buildings or notable cafes to entice me. Incidentally, surely the building of a six screen cinema of laughable ugliness is a barking mad idea?