MAYOR Gordon Oliver has fought off critics of Torbay Council plans to develop Torquay’s waterside.
During a debate sparked by a 1,095-signature public petition against the building of a hotel next to the Pavilion, Mayor Oliver rounded on critics of the council’s plans to develop the -prime site.
He warned that rejecting the principle of development risked sending out the wrong message to potential investors in the Bay.
Although the Mayor’s view prevailed at a full meeting of the council on Thursday his comments failed to impress members of the public who spoke out against the plans.
The main opposition views included the loss of sea views for residents; the lack of well-paid jobs; loss of green space; and a failure to consider investment in the Pavilion.
There was also criticism of a decision not to debate in full the transfer of leases on the site, with opponents claiming a lack of democratic accountability.
But the Mayor said councillors had decided in 2012 to support regenerating the waterfront.
During an impassioned defence of the principle of development he said: “We have to be very careful we don’t give out the message to developers in Torbay that once we make a decision we might go back on it.”
He added: “If we don’t want to grant them a lease they’ll walk.
“If we go back on our word now, that will have a huge effect on confidence for any future development in the Bay.
He said issues raised by members of the public were planning ones and needed to be decided at a later date by the planning committee.
This created some confusion about what could and could not be discussed.
Cllr Steve Darling said: “It’s quite embarrassing what’s happened today with the withdrawal of the debate of this matter and makes me wonder whether we are managing Trumpton or Torbay.”
Cllr Julien Parrott submitted an amendment to the petition asking for the chief executive of the Torbay Development Agency to take the matter away and get a better value deal for the residents of the Bay.
But it was defeated in a vote with the Mayor saying no deal with developers had been settled.
The loudest applause of the night was for opponent Fiona McPhail who accused the council of not standing up to developers.
She submitted a question saying proposals for the site disregarded the council’s ‘tall buildings strategy’ as well as green space policy and covenants of Cary Green.
She said: "I think that we need to be clear, we are not prepared to allow a developer to make a land grab.
"The Pavilion cannot be used as a hostage to force inappropriate development upon us
It cannot all be about the money, money, money, the ca ching ca ching ca ching of profit and greed."
Alan Griffey, Torbay Friends of the Earth, presented the petition, which had also been signed by 700 visitors.
He said: “This morning I stood up at the base of beacon Hill. Looking across the harbour I could see the Bay and beyond the green fields and woods of Chelston and Churston. I also had a grand view of Rock Walk.
“If the proposed apartments are built that view will go, we’ll be looking at a block of flats.”
But the views of opponents were criticised by councillors Dave Thomas and John Thomas.
Cllr Dave Thomas said: “Every reason that has come forward is a planning issue and needs to be put before planning.”
Cllr John Thomas added: “This petition has been badly worded.”
A decision was taken to note the petition but take no further action on it.