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Popular Cockington carriage ride business 'may hang up reins'

By Herald Express  |  Posted: January 14, 2013

worried about future:   Rick Passmore with his  horses   Andy Uglow TQAU04112012_C_002

worried about future: Rick Passmore with his horses Andy Uglow TQAU04112012_C_002

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ONE of Torbay's most famous tourist traditions could be lost forever unless it gets a financial boost.

The Cockington Carriage Company has been charming visitors to the picturesque village for more than 60 years.

But after suffering a fifth bad summer in a row, owner Rick Passmore says he might have to hang up the reins and close the stables of the carriage-ride business.

He says he intends to appeal to Torbay Council for a financial subsidy to help him through the testing times.

He says if his fortunes do not improve in time for Easter, Torbay may lose a cherished equine tradition.

He said: "We are a weather-dependant business and the fact is we have suffered due to the bad weather.

"Last year was the wettest in 100 years and it was the fifth bad summer on the trot. Last year I lost four-and-a-half months of business and I need to earn in the summer to get me through the winter.

"I'm hanging on by my fingertips.

"The price of feed has gone up, vets' bills are up. The feed for horses and shoeing the horses have all risen.

"What I am hoping for is help due to the exceptional circumstances — maybe a subsidy from the council."

Mr Passmore bought the business in 1989. At that time there were six carriage-ride businesses operating, each with four or five horses. Now there is just one.

Mr Passmore said: "In those days we used to get 500,000 visitors. That is now down to 250,000.

"The carriages are known throughout the country and the world.

"Cockington without the carriage horses would be like cream tea without the Devon cream. I'm the last business left here but some traditions need to be preserved.

"Once these traditions go they are lost forever."

A spokesman for the Torbay Development Agency, which operates the specialist craft-based innovation centre on a not-for-profit basis, said it hopes Cockington Carriages will continue.

The spokesman said: "To date, no evidence has been provided to suggest that a carriage business at Cockington is not viable without public subsidy or grant.

"Cockington Carriages has recently expanded its operation and now occupies all of the stables, acquiring all three carriage licences.

"For the avoidance of doubt, the TDA wishes to maintain the carriage tradition and will seek a new operator should the current operator decide to stop trading next Easter.

"Without referring to any business specifically, it is inevitable that some businesses will decide to move on.

"It would, however, be inappropriate to treat one tenant more favourably than another without good cause."

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  • woodie2010  |  June 02 2013, 2:19PM

    would be helpful to know the price. Have spent some time trawling google and could not find. this

  • gettingangry  |  January 15 2013, 11:01PM

    if they put the word "bank" somewhere in their business title they`ll have a better chance of being bailed out by the tax payer.

    |   1
  • DevonJanner  |  January 15 2013, 11:17AM

    we are in the middle of the worst recession since 1930,some people are too thick to realise that!!!!

    |   -4
  • Pingu007  |  January 13 2013, 8:52AM

    Why should a PRIVATE business get help from MY council tax? If it's not viable, it's not a business, simple as that. You cease to be a business if you don't have any trade. I do feel sorry for Mr Passmore, but the taxpayer is not there to bail out every single business which cannot pay its own way (despite what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown thought). Mr Passmore and his own accountants/advisers should be looking at how to minimise costs/maximise income.Torbay pockets are barely deep enough to support their own households and businesses, let alone having to fork out for others' too, and the TDA has no money of its own, it's all public money. Our money.

    |   6
  • Mansands  |  January 12 2013, 2:53PM

    That's a NO then from the TDA.

    |   8
  • realityzone  |  January 12 2013, 9:06AM

    The reply from the is very unsatisfactory and TDS does not address the problem that Mr. Passmore is exposing. They imply that if he packs up another operator will simply materialise and start making a worth while profit - just like that. I don't think so. Why have they not said that they will look into the carriage operation as see in what way it might be helped.

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