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Campaigners accuse council of 'greed' over Torquay Pavilion plans

By HEPaulGreaves  |  Posted: July 19, 2014

Campaigners accuse council of 'greed' over Torquay Pavilion plans

Torquay Pavilion. Pic: Don Proctor

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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.

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9 comments

  • spcdust  |  July 19 2014, 10:43PM

    If your elected Councillors are not listening to their electorate, or just as bad abstaining from voting on this local issue, then simply vote them out next year. They are not fit to stand for public office if all they do is ignore the will of the people. Alas, history has a habit of repeating istelft and, over the years, Torbay has had a lot (not all I hasten to add) self serving Councillors who, at best, are not sophisticated enough to see the bigger picture and are conned into backing doomed projects and, at worst....well we're "allegedly" back to the dark a dubious self serving aspect of individuals.

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  • spcdust  |  July 19 2014, 10:18PM

    I could extol the many reasons why this whole development is completely wrong for Torquay, how over the years the architectural heart of Torquay has been ripped out by misguided, and allegedly, corrupt officials (ERIC anyone?). I could point out that the replacement of a green and open space in the very heart of Torquay has more attraction for visitors and locals alike rather than a car park - a car park located right next to the under utilised Fleet Walk multi story car park. I could point out that the proposed development is totally out of scale to the fine lines of The Pavilion and it's very construction would completely diminish it. How Cary Green is an important green corridor connecting the shopping area to the coast and how a "landscaped" car park will not enhance the area or the sight lines (do visitors come for the car parks or for the green and open spaces?) Please Councillors. learn from past mistakes, such as Fleet Walk, do not diminish Torquay's character any more and be so naive and hoodwinked by Developers who try and hold you to ransom with veiled threats that they'll pull out unless you subscribe to their every demand. Listen to your electorate. I am not one that is against all development and wants to preserve and create some yesteryear World with no regard to the economical benefits investment in the area will offer but this svheme, like many others in the past that the Council has backed, is just completely wrong. There is no medium to long term benefit or merit for the town in this scheme.

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  • spindleshanks  |  July 19 2014, 6:51PM

    Think everyone has to remember we have been told that the repairs to the Pavilion are likely to cost just £1.5 - £2 million. One can only assume the bulk of the profit to be made from the development of the hotel and apartments proposed is needed because of the difficulty associated with building an eight storey building above an existing multi level car park that was itself built on land reclaimed from the sea. Other options need to be looked into and the disgrace of Thursday evening's council meeting is the mayor has actually achieved what he set out to avoid - that being other options are not going to be considered by a council that isn't listening to public opinion. What is being proposed certainly isn't best value unless of course you are the developer involved. What town in the UK would give away its heart and soul for 250 years for the sake of £2 million?

    Rate   7
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  • markyt  |  July 19 2014, 5:21PM

    My objection to the scheme is due to the height of the building, particularly the 'end stop' tower, and the loss of Cary Green as a public space. In the Urban design study by David Orr, included with the planning submission, the claim is made that a larger building is desirable at the end of the new building to form a 'end stop', the remainder of the building conforming to the general roof line of the adjacent Vaughan Parade terrace. That existing row is actually all of the same roof height now, with only the frontage of the stone end building housing the Offshore restaurant extending up to roof height beyond the apex roofs of the white rendered terrace. From the streets nearby the stone building looks taller as the apex roofs are not visible, but more distant views reveal the similar overall height. That demonstrates it is not necessary for the end part of the new building to be significantly taller in order to effectively 'terminate' the block, there are many other techniques to achieve this pleasingly without such a prominent edifice that will dominate so many views around the harbour. The Urban Design Study also included alternative ideas that avoided removal of the whole of Cary Green for conversion to a private car park. Instead only a smaller facility alongside Cary Parade could be built, the remainder becoming a public square, perhaps dedicated to Agatha Christie - 'Christie Square' or some such. Importantly the idea would retain the majority of the area in public use even if no longer a 'green' as such. The complete conversion of Cary Green to a car park has the effect of closely surrounding the Pavilion on two sides with parking, more like an out of town supermarket than a unique iconic town centre building. The hotel facilities to be contained in the Pavilion will also be affected by this, the only view from the reception entrance being a sea of tarmac and car roofs. A successful hotel development of the building would ideally see use of its many facilities by non residents as well as guests, and coherently tying its entrance into a public space interfacing with other businesses and attractions nearby would help to achieve this rather than it being marooned across a large car park. The sketch on page 76 of the Urban Design Study illustrates how the screened full size car park would block views of the Pavilion from Palk Street, hardly conducive to passing trade. In various documents the developers propose a valet parking scheme in which hotel guests could have their cars parked by attendants using abundant spaces in surrounding existing public car parks, all within a short five minute walk of the hotel entrance should a guest wish to collect their car themselves. The valet parking could negate the need for any hotel guest parking at all in the immediate vicinity excepting a small number of short term spaces for cars awaiting valet pick up or drop off. There are many spaces in these existing car parks especially overnight when hotel parking will liklely be most in demand. I think Torbay must reject the scheme as it is currently proposed and ask the developers to look again at the car parking proposals and the overall height of the development at its tallest point. As the owner of one of the existing car parks nearby Torbay could also actively encourage a valet parking scheme by negotiating with the developer and any future hotel operator for preferential parking charges, effectively free at point of use for the guests, included in their room rate. Equally Torbay might also encourage a dialogue with the operators of the Fleet Walk car park, very close to the hotel, with a view to obtaining similar benefits. I am not against the development in principle but the height and car parking on Cary Green are totally unnacceptable to me and many others and, if approved could establish dangerous precedents with respect to other public spaces owned by the council in the bay, whether protected by covenants or not.

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  • FreeForever2  |  July 19 2014, 5:01PM

    I think that it's sickening that the Council isn't listening to the wishes of local people. You're supposed to be working for our good! Torquay is a beautiful place, but it won't be if the harbourside has eight-storey buildings blighting it or car parks where there should be gardens! Yes, the awful Marina car park needs developing, but at least it doesn't destroy stunning views like current proposals would. Yes, the Pavilion needs to be restored, but it should be not be used as a trojan horse to push current horrific proposals through. Why has only one developer been found to tackle this area? Why has lottery or arts funding not been sought for such an important historical building? To see it be turned into a hotel foyer would be a travesty, as would turning the Green in front of it into yet another bloody car park!

    Rate   6
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  • Torquinian2  |  July 19 2014, 4:45PM

    Considering that elections are coming up next year, I find it somewhat surprising that the majority of Council members continue to ignore the wishes of local people and visitors. The full council meeting on Wednesday last week was shambolic - those that talked about 'progress' and the supposed 'necessity' of this overdevelopment were booed by the audience, while those that spoke against it received rapturous applause. Even after this, the majority of the Council decided to ignore the petition. Watching Spotlight yesterday was equally eye-opening - the Pavilion and Cary Green are proposed to be handed over to the developers on a 250-year lease - what the hell is going on here?! The Council had their cake in 2012 when their decision to lease these community assets to developers (with minimal public consultation) was 'unanimous'. Well they don't get to eat it, too. We, as local people, are standing up for our town and we will not be silenced. There shall be NO car park on Cary Green. There shall be NO hotel foyer in the historic Pavilion. And there shall be NO 8-story apartment tower block blighting our harbourside. An alternative can and will be found to secure the future of the Pavilion, starting with the new Torquay Pavilion Trust. It's time for those who have blindly supported the flawed current plans to wake up and smell the coffee.

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  • kjrodgers  |  July 19 2014, 4:44PM

    The land was given to the people of Torquay by Lady Cary, the council has no right to sell it - they have already overstepped the mark by allowing the Fleet Walk development to install a big ugly bridge there, now they want to compound that embezzlement of our land in yet another shady deal. Yes, we all know it is 'prime land', the whole of the seafront is prime land, that doesn't mean it can be just given away willy nilly, nor does it mean that building on it would be beneficial to the area. This is the typical short-sightedness of Torquay council; they would rather make a few pence in the short term rather than keeping something beautiful which will continue to encourage visitors and give pleasure to the residents. I have a better proposal, lets get rid of that big, ugly bridge and return the park to its former glory when it was surrounded by trees which provided a moderate amount of shade and was a pleasant place to spend a summer afternoon.

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  • Bleach  |  July 19 2014, 4:15PM

    "[the Mayor] warned that rejecting the principle of development risked sending out the wrong message to potential investors in the Bay". Very few people are rejecting "the principle of development". Almost across the board - on Twitter, Facebook, even on the council's own planning website, a significant proportion of the many, many cries of protestation are proceeded by a recognition that development of some kind is necessary. The opposition, which is strong, is not against harbour development, it's against *this* harbour development. It's too big, too overpowering and it requires the demolition of a much loved area of parkland. And it's wrong. It's time the Mayor and his council started to listen to the people they are supposed to represent.

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  • spindleshanks  |  July 19 2014, 2:09PM

    Members of the public who turned up to the council meeting to hear the matter discussed arrived only to find the meeting adjourned for an hour and councilors and the mayor downstairs in the Brasserie having a jolly good tuck in. Of course one has to ask if the councilors in 2012 knew they were voting to allow the Chief Executive of Torbay Council to negotiate a 250 year lease (longer than the history of Torquay as we know it today for what is the prime development site in Torquay, they may not have voted the way they did. The councilors who proposed/backed the motion that any decision making should be deferred pending an investigation into whether best value is being gained for the taxpayers in Torbay ought to be congratulated and those who voted against the motion named and shamed. No wonder the BBC smelt a whiff and reported on the matter. What's next on the list of public assets to give away? Perhaps the inner harbour now it has been re-equipped to marina standards at the tax payers expense?

    Rate   8
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