TWO national high street retailers have joined calls for further talks over plans for Queen Street in Newton Abbot.

Poundland and Sports Direct say they could be affected by proposals to ban vehicles more than 10m in length as both stores receive deliveries on lorries of 12m and 16m. 

Meanwhile, the controversy over the future of the town centre continued to rage at Teignbridge District Council (TDC) where its leader has been accused of ‘planning to fail’.

Major changes are proposed for traffic in the busy street, including widened pavements and the removal of more than half the parking spaces.

Supporters say the plans will improve the shopping experience and boost trade, but opponents fear the worst. 

A number of prominent business leaders object to the plans and have urged councillors to think again.

The scheme is being driven by Devon County Council (DCC), but the debate dominated budget discussions at Teignbridge’s overview and scrutiny committee.

Traffic Regulation Orders agreed in June will stop vehicles of more than 10 metres from entering Queen Street. 

But a spokesman for Sports Direct explained: ’The proposed plans will increase the cost of operation for us among other retailers in the area at a time when inflationary pressures are already a huge challenge facing the industry.

‘Sports Direct are concerned that they, alongside other employers in Newton Abbot, have not been consulted anywhere near sufficiently to establish the requirements of this proposal.

’We believe the council should instead be more focused in engaging with local business in how to improve the attractiveness of the town centre with effective measures that benefit their constituents, instead of what appears to be a substantial waste of councillors energy and constituents resource in reviewing loading and delivery bays that support employment in the town.’

Poundland is similarly supplied by lorries that would be barred from entering Queen Street should the scheme go ahead as planned: several smaller businesses also use large vehicles.

A spokesman for Poundland, which says its business will be significantly impacted, said: ’We’re joining with other Newton Abbot businesses to ask for a pause in the plans for the Queen Street pedestrianisation scheme to allow for consultation with all those, like us, that have serious concerns.

‘If the scheme proceeds in its current form it will lead to a significant impact on our operations at the store.

‘None of us want to see a scheme that will see retailers having to make more, not fewer, lorry deliveries, increasing costs, impacting neighbours and our sustainability agenda.’

Members of Teignbridge Council’s overview and scrutiny committee were being asked to look at the authority’s latest budget proposals in the lead-up to setting its council tax.

But Cllr Jane Taylor wanted to know what provisions had been made for what she claims is the likely failure of the Queen Street scheme.

She said: ‘It’s clear that we are planning to fail,

‘Part of this budget relies on Queen Street. It relies on business rates and footfall.

‘If Queen Street goes ahead, this financial planning will fail in many aspects. I would be interested to see what it looks like when we have many empty shops in Queen Street and much less footfall.

‘You don’t need a crystal ball to see what the future is on this. 

‘This financial plan is flawed because we are missing a huge issue, and that is the death of Newton Abbot town centre.’

But deputy council leader Richard Keeling hit back: ‘I don’t see what Cllr Taylor sees in Queen Street.

‘I see an investment into our community, one that has taken a very long time and many consultations with the public.

‘This investment will only bring more shops and more footfall into the area.’

DCC says it is aware of concerns and is ‘working on ways to address them’.

A call has been made for an extraordinary meeting of TDC demanding the authority ‘take immediate actions’ to change the present plan and avoid ‘mass closures’ of Newton Abbot businesses.

The request by the South Devon Alliance demands ‘the council take immediate actions to alter the Queen Street pedestrianisation plan to avert significant and wholly self-inflicted business hardship and mass closures in Newton Abbot.’

Newton Abbot Town Council, which has objected to the plans, says limiting the size of vehicles that can access Queen Street via the Avenue will cause ‘immense hardship’ to businesses.

Teignbridge Council leader Cllr Martin Wrigley, said: ‘From what we have found so far, thanks to helpful input from the Federation of Small Businesses, there are two or three of the businesses along Queen Street that use bigger lorries than anybody knew about.

‘We need to make accommodation for that.

‘We can make changes to the TROs. We wanted to make sure that, if there were any specific problems, we could make the changes, so we changed the bollard so that the funeral directors in King Street can get out and through, for example.

‘We are looking to find solutions to these problems, and I am really happy they have come around now so we can fix it.’

Carmen Hanif, Devon’s development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘We are concerned that Teignbridge Council is not listening to serious concerns around the negative impact of the scheme that will affect businesses, including loss of trade, accessibility for residents and customers due to the loss of parking spaces, and delivery and transport issues.

‘Whilst the council maintains that consultation was undertaken, some businesses have confirmed that they were unaware of the plans until last week. Many others maintain that they have struggled to highlight their challenges with the scheme to the council.

‘We would suggest more work needs to be done around consultation, with a pause to the scheme allowing time for this to take place.’

Newton Abbot Town Development Manager, Sally Henley, said: ‘It is concerning that a traffic management scheme is being introduced, which may irreversibly upset the delicate town centre ecosystem, which has survived a pandemic and global economic downturn. 

‘I do hope, in the light of the latest revelation that many retailers might not be able to service their shops efficiently, should this scheme go ahead, that TDC and DCC will pause these plans in order to better understand the needs of the towns occupiers as well as those of shoppers, visitors and residents.’

Queen Street Traders And Residents Association’s Claire Quelvennec said: ‘Loading bay consultations were done to accommodate deliveries to businesses, yet at no time were we, or other businesses, contacted to advise us that a size restriction would be imposed on delivery vehicles meaning they that lorries over 10m long will be banned from accessing theses loading bays - how is such incompetence possible?

‘We are acutely aware that the people devising and approving these plans have no idea what is going on. 

‘Rest assured we are not against improvements being made to our successful town, however pedestrianising Queen Street will have a direct negative effect on people coming into town, the shops they visit and worse still the livelihood of traders in Queen Street and beyond.