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Increasing questions about expanding Brixham’s Fish Quay and Market

  • by JW






.Back in June last year, Torbay council applied for central government funding to extend Brixham’s Fish Quay and Market – all in the name of “providing more employment opportunities in key local sectors”:

Torbay bids for £20m Levelling Up Fund to help drive employment opportunities and skills in the region – Torbay Council

The bid failed:

Outcome of Levelling Up Fund bid – Torbay Council

Brixham fails in bid for £20m boost for harbour improvements – Devon Live

Despite all the politicking:

MP to work alongside fishermen aboard Brixham’s newest trawler – Devon Live (October 2021)

Nigel Farage in Brixham: Behind the scenes with foaming pints and sea shanties – Devon Live (November 2021)

Brixham defies Brexit and Covid storm to smash fish sale record – Devon Live (January 2022)

People in Devon are baffled about ‘levelling up’ – Devon Live (February 2022)

But what all this misses are the environmental impacts of any such ‘extension’ at Brixham.


These pages have carried several pieces on the issues around ‘scraping’ the seas for fish:

The future of fishing: “Overfishing, Conservation, Sustainability, and Farmed Fish” – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Bottom-trawling in Marine Protected Areas – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Marine conservation after Brexit – Vision Group for Sidmouth

This coming Saturday sees the SeaFest return to Sidmouth – and the main theme is kelp and kelp forests, which an expanded Brixham might well threaten:

Kelp our Oceans – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The Torbay Friends of the Earth have recently highlighted concerns in an open letter:

Bottom dredging

There’s a bid being quietly prepared to expand Brixham’s industrial fishing (bottom, beam and dredging) capacity using ‘Levelling Up’ funds.
Opposition groups are mobilising across the region, appalled at the proposed bid and the environmental damage, heritage erosion, increased pollution and enormous carbon emissions it will bring.
There are many arguments against this proposal- spanning moral concerns, transparency concerns, environmental concerns, business case and value for money.
In essence: it’s a Net Zero destroying, carbon enhancing, heritage eroding, environmentally destructive plan right on our doorstep. It’s horrifying that its being considered to be subsidised by levelling up funds

Headlines are:
1) Why is Mr Mangnall seeking to direct public money to an industry that he lauds for its strong post Brexit success?
2) With health and social care deep in crisis, and a cost of living crisis raging, how can this be a responsible use of scarce public funds intended for ‘Levelling Up’?
3) Bottom trawling, dragging heavy chains along the delicate marine floor ecosystem, is described as like driving a bulldozer through a national park. Nature is already in crisis with the UK rated in the worst 10% in the world for intact ecosystems by the Natural History Museum.
4) The latest science suggests that bottom trawling is responsible for huge CO2 emissions – more than international aviation.
5) The USA has made a decision to ban bottom trawling on its West coast due to the disastrous impact on marine ecoystems. The UK Government has just banned Bottom and Beam Trawlers from 4 UK fishing sites. Why does Mr Mangnall think we should have lower protections here?
6) Fish stocks are plummeting due to overfishing and the damage we are causing to ecosystems. Increasing industrial fishing will hasten the collapse of fish stocks.
7) Brixham Fish Market’s record yearly turnover is distorting the UK fish market. Daily, fish are transported into Brixham from ports all across the UK such as Lowestoft to be auctioned and then driven by lorry out again. The £20 million funding will make this whole situation even worse- bringing further pollution and congestion to Brixham and South Devon’s narrow lanes and streets.
8) Beam and Bottom Trawlers account for 80% of the demersal and pelagic fish that pass through the market.
9) From Beam Trawlers to the road transport of fish – the whole bid defies Clean Growth Strategy, Net Zero and Carbon Budgets.
It’s a short sighted disaster that threatens our unique Devon natural heritage.

Torbay Friends of the Earth Local Group | Friends of the Earth


There are huge concerns about the effect of sea-level rises and other impacts on the cliffs at Sidmouth – as explored and expressed as part of the Beach Management Plan:

Beach Management Plan: tenfold increase in erosion predicted – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Beach Management Plan: new report on rates of erosion – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The Vision Group for Sidmouth rep on the Beach Management Plan’s Advisory Group has written to the District Council and the MP for East Devon.

She has made the point that the expansion at Brixham might have considerable knock-on effects as far as Sidmouth is concerned:

Knock on effects from Brixham expansion

I realise that at first glance this may seem a strange concern but recent reading has taught me that, it is believed, the effects of sea level rises can be mitigated by slowing down wave action; this is achieved by conserving or planting kelp forests and other underwater vegetation. If we need sea forests to slow water movement as well as absorb C02 it seems counter intuitive to permit the seascape to be wrecked due to increased destructive fishing practices. I understand that enlarging the fishing fleet at Brixham will increase such practices.

Sidmouth Beach Management Plan needs the effects of sea level rises to be mitigated as much as possible to avoid us having to have a large wall all along the Esplanade. It has been pointed out repeatedly that such a wall would have a huge effect on the livelihood of people in Sidmouth.

Saving Brixham at the expense of Sidmouth doesn’t seem fair. Neither does an increase in revenue from a successful Torbay at the cost of a further impoverished East Devon by loss of revenue from Sidmouth, which is after all one of the District Council’s major cash cows.

Beach Management Plan – Vision Group for Sidmouth


Finally, what disturbs many observers is the seeming lack of transparency of process and real concern for sustainable development.

The ‘Better Devon’ group claims it stands for ‘fair, transparent, sustainable use of public funds’:

Home | Better Devon

It has put together a very detailed response:

“Opposition to the Application Bid for the Levelling Up Fund 2022: Brixham Fish Market extension.”

Finally, there will be protests:


Brixham: fishy business – West Country Voices