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Anger as Torbay Mayor spends £7,000 on Torquay palm tree

By Herald Express  |  Posted: October 13, 2012

Gordon Oliver

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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).

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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."

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  • devondave  |  December 02 2012, 4:03PM

    We should put a sign on Mr Olivers wrapped up palm tree saying Torbay closed as this is the impression it gives.

  • RivieraPalms  |  October 16 2012, 5:32AM

    Juliet its not going to be planted and dug up. If you read the other comments you would have known that. Personally I hope this palm tree has a big impact. I just started taking photos myself this year of the palms in Torquay and on sunday I got a great shot on the seafront, looks almost like it's in Sri Lanka. Palms are important, the mayor is not stupid, and and we will benefit from planting more. Please take a look at this picture I took of Torquay Seafront on sunday, and then tell me that we don't need palms! The palms are the best thing we've got! http://tinyurl.com/cedgczx

  • julietl  |  October 15 2012, 9:45PM

    I voted for this mayor and what he supposedly believed in, how wrong I was. How can he justifiy spending £20,000 of our money on a tree that we actually grow here in Torbay. To make matters even worse is the fact that it will end up being dug up to make way for the new road. Where will it go then? Sell it back to Spain? Gordon you need to look at the far bigger picture of what needs doing here in Torbay and its certainly not just planting a tree!

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  • magpie8  |  October 15 2012, 7:43PM

    sorry about the "wa" words failed me!

  • magpie8  |  October 15 2012, 7:15PM

    Well done Mr Mayor for a spectacular wa

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  • magpie8  |  October 15 2012, 7:15PM

    Well done Mr Mayor for a spectacular wa

  • magpie8  |  October 15 2012, 7:14PM

    Well done Mr Mayor, for a spectacular waste of money.

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  • gordonbennett  |  October 13 2012, 1:54PM

    SidneyNuff....I thought you had gone...only to re-appear under another ridiculous name but the same ridiculous remarks.

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  • ChasTysement  |  October 13 2012, 12:08PM

    This man has about as much political sense as the palm tree!

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  • SidneyNuff  |  October 12 2012, 11:26PM

    The Kerswell Roudabout is the first thing people see when they enter Torquay. Followed by the Newton Road doss house for druggies and sex offenders, then the Factory Row doss house for druggies and sex offenders, then the alcohol rehab centre, then the methadone dispensing chemist on Castle Circus, then the probation centre on Ash Hill Road (and just look at all those burnt out cars).

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      Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver plans to spend £7,000 on a palm tree as part of a £20,000 scheme to spruce up the gateway to Torquay. Is it: