Plans for a new £15million extension to the Fish Quay at Brixham have come under fire amid claims the new quay will damage the town’s tourist industry.
Guy Henderson www.devonlive.com
Yet Torbay Council says the new quay extension is vital for the future of the fishing industry and will create 150 new jobs.
But critics say the benefits will be outweighed by the loss of busy boat moorings and parking spaces for tourists.
Brixham Yacht Club commodore Richard Spreckley said: “This is supposed to be about improving the local economy, but I believe it will have the reverse effect.
“It will decimate parking, which is crucial to tourism. All this is doing is pouring in money to apologise for Brexit, which the fishermen didn’t realise was going to cut them off from their own market.”
The council and the bay’s development agency TDA are bidding for money for the new quay project from the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ fund aimed at areas in need of investment. They expect to hear in the next few weeks if they have been successful.
The application also includes funding for a new high-tech business park at Paignton.
In Brixham, land would be reclaimed to extend the harbour and fish market, with an extra 7,000 square metres of quayside.
This would create more landing space to allow an extra five fishing vessels to off-load at a time. There would be two new auction halls, doubling the current capacity.
The TDA says the investment could lead to an increase in landed fish value of up to £20m per year within five years, generating more than £11m a year for the local economy.
Torbay Council Cabinet member Mike Morey said: “Investment in Brixham’s harbour and fish market would help secure the future of Brixham’s fishing sector which has been badly affected by Brexit and Covid-19.
“These challenges and the lack of capacity for boats and landings is preventing the sector from significant growth.”
Mr Spreckley said the yacht club was one of many objectors.
The priority for spending, he said, should be the long-awaited Northern Arm breakwater to protect boats in the harbour from damage in ‘perilous’ weather.
He said: “This proposal will turn the Oxen Cove car park into a mini industrial estate. There will be no pedestrian access, and it will be harder for people to get to the shops.”
Brixham’s fish market is currently enjoying a boom in business, with fish landed in ports hundreds of miles away being brought by road to be sold at the online auctions on the quayside.
But, said Mr Spreckley: “Environmentally the fish quay proposal is ridiculous. This will just lead to more fish being trucked in from all over the country to be sold on the market at Brixham, because Brixham fish has a premium value.
“It will mean more lorries driving through the tourists on the harbourside.”
Mr Spreckley said he also feared the effect of the new plan on the harbour’s sailors.
He said: “The Brixham Junior Sailing Club, which has taught hundreds of people to sail, will lose out. We need access to the water and boat storage, but more importantly we have hosted national championship, with 60 boats and families who come from all over Britain.
“That’s an awful lot of income to the local economy, and that would be massively threatened.
“Putting the existing new pier in the harbour at oxen Cove lost 50 small craft moorings, and this proposal will remove another 45 to 50.
“Rather than sailing being a very popular and affordable sport, that is going to force everyone into marinas instead, and that costs vastly more than a small mooring.
“The TDA is putting all Brixham’s money into fishing at a time when there are fewer fish in the sea.
“The day boats will scarcely get any benefit from this extension.
“The basis of the bid is creating 150 jobs, but the reality is that very few of those jobs will go to local people. In return, we will lose our ability to service the tourist industry.
“We have one of the three best bits of water for dinghy sailing along the south coast, but this will mean that our club will become vastly less attractive.
“People get the impression that we’re all filthy rich, but the reality is that we’re not. It’s a ludicrous idea.
“This club spends much more time organising dinghy championships.
“The thing that concerns me most is the damage it is doing to the harbour. It’s a beautiful safe haven that would be even safer with a Northern Arm.
“This money would have been a good start towards creating a Northern Arm.”