A ROW has erupted over mayor Gordon Oliver's plans to spend £20,000 on a giant palm tree scheme for the entrance to Torquay.
A showpiece 20ft tall potted palm will have to be removed in three years' time to make way for the new Kingswerswell bypass.
The floodlit Canary date palm is being craned in from Spain on Monday on to the Kerswell Gardens roundabout, which will be demolished when the new South Devon Link Road is completed.
Some outraged councillors claim they only found out about the scheme two days after work started when a statement was released by the mayor (pictured).
The £7,000 palm tree will be the centrepiece for the £20,000 improvement scheme. Torbay Council says the money will come from a £100,000 Gateway Project to improve the entrance to the town.
Opposition councillors have questioned whether the money is well-spent at a time of up to £10million cuts; overspending on adult and children's services, and lack of funds for other facilities such as Brixham's Shoalstone Pool. Brixham councillor Mike Morey said: "Gordon Oliver is not prepared to save Shoalstone Pool, which is a major tourism attraction in Brixham, but he's prepared to stick a tree on a roundabout for that kind of money.
"The first I heard about this was when I saw the press release."
Work started on Monday clearing and levelling the overgrown roundabout.
The centre is being raised by two metres, and will be covered with a blanket of large limestone rocks.
The Phoenix Canariens palm is being positioned in a pot at the centre of the island. It will be lit by solar LED at night.
Mr Oliver said: "Kerswell Gardens roundabout is a key location as it is the first feature that people see when they head into Torbay.
"With its comparatively mild climate the Bay is, of course, famous for its palm trees.
"On this occasion we wanted to make a real impact so we decided to 'go large' by bringing in the six-metre high palm.
"This is part of my ongoing policy of improving the physical appearance of Torbay, particularly at its major entrance to the Bay for the benefit of local people and our tourists.
"The tree and the limestone rocks will provide a suitably welcoming sight as people head into the Bay, and indeed leave our many thousands of visitors with an abiding memory when they set off for home.
"This is a beginning of changes made as a result of the start of the bypass last week."
Outraged Labour councillor Darren Cowell said: "We are spending £20,000 on a palm tree scheme against a backdrop of £10million cuts. The mayor seems to have an obsession with palm trees.
"I am absolutely furious because we will soon be talking about cuts to frontline services.
"I support the principle of improving the whole of the gateway route down to Torre Station. But if you are going to do this, get sponsorship from the tourism and hospitality industry. And don't put it where it will have to be pulled down in three years time. I just hope it survives the winter."
Cllr Steve Darling said: "Do we want to help residents and their needs or do we pander to the tourists? I thought it would be forever, but it is just a temporary, short-term window dressing fix."
Cllr Julien Parrott said: "I wasn't aware of this. I have nothing against palm trees but we can all think of something we would rather see £20,000 spent on whether it is adult services, children services or keeping a day care for older people open for six months."