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Community's plan on how it wants to see Torquay develop over next 20 years

By Herald Express  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

  • potential: Hele roundabout/Barton Hill Road/Barton Hill Way offers an opportunity for some redevelopment

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HOW can Torquay be made fit for the 21st century? For the first time the community at large has been asked to say how it wants to see the town develop over the next 20 years.

The draft Neighbourhood Plan has been drawn up to look at several areas both in town and out of town which may be ripe for regeneration — or need protecting for the future.

Some of the key proposals include:

Torquay Town Hall car park: redevelopment for superstore with car parking and residential to act as catalyst for regeneration in the wider town centre.

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The Castle Circus area could become a key focal point to match the harbour area, with quality retail, office, hotel and leisure uses supported within the area should key buildings become available for reuse including town hall, Electric House, and magistrates' court.

Temperance Street/Lower Union Lane and the area behind Union Street: Redevelopment site to take in the multi-storey car park, possibly the Temperance Street car park and the former BT building.

Could be an anchor store, leisure facilities such as cinema, indoor sports facilities.

Princess Theatre area: Potential to expand/extend/redevelop theatre (without damaging Princess Gardens) to enable it to offer more quality entertainment and larger shows.

Pimlico: Buildings opposite those which front on to Union Street considered appropriate for redevelopment as residential, retail, or related to a transport hub.

Former laundry works site, Rock Road: Residential use incorporating community facilities.

Swan Street warehouses: redevelopment for residential and other town centre uses including retail.

Cary Parade amusement arcade site: High rise development for residential/offices and other town centre uses.

The Strand: Improvement could include redevelopment of buildings. Combination of luxury apartments, improved retail, hotel, small restaurants, while protecting outlook from The Terrace.

Kerswell Gardens estate: recommended to retain its designation for industrial/warehousing but with high quality, well-landscaped development.

Edginswell Business Park: The forum supports planners' decision to reject proposals for a large superstore in what they say should be retained as a high-quality business park. A new railway station is proposed nearby.

Land between Newton Road and Edginswell Lane: Employment land.

Old Newton Road: It is suggested some of the sites could be redeveloped to provide more jobs.

Broomhill Way: The business park could be extended.

Woodland Industrial Estate: Potential for redevelopment/modernisation of some of the estate.

Torre Station yards: Potential for an imaginative development on the site both sides of the railway that would provide employment including office accommodation, retail and residential.

Parkdean, Barton Hall Holiday Park, off Kingskerswell Road, close to The Willows: The forum says this is an area that would be challenging if existing businesses were to be put on the market.

The draft report says it is likely that any change in use would be controversial.

However, the pressure of housing 'will always mean difficult choices in and around Torbay due to land constraints'.

Moles Lane, Shiphay: Land at the top of Hamelin Way may have potential for employment.

Hele roundabout/Barton Hill Road/Barton Hill Way: Potential opportunity for some redevelopment that would improve the commercial property and employment in this area.

Former Barton tip area: Support continued designation as area for sports and leisure.

Fields bounded by Edginswell Lane, Hamelin Way and Moles Lane: Major housing and mixed use development.

AMONG the key points raised for consultation are the enhancement of educational facilities in Brunel Woods, Watcombe, Lummaton Quarry as a key employment space, improved transport links in Barton and Watcombe, reinstating empty houses, possible allotments at the Old Piggeries in Cockington, small scale in-fill housing or business such as in Broadley Drive, Manscombe Road, Broadstone Park Road, reservoir area of Hamelin Way, Torquay railway station, the old school site in Old Mill Road, improved transport links in Ellacombe and identifying brownfield sites for housing or employment such as Albert Court in Market Street.

The forum wants to identify sites for employment in Hele and Lower Barton, and regenerate Hele Road and area.

Sladnor Park in Maidencombe is supported for development as is enhanced shopping and retail areas in St Marychurch, Maidencombe and district.

In Torre and Upton, improvements to existing housing standards are required.

Lymington Road coach park is identified for employment, community and residential development.

The revitalisation of the Torre area is required including support for the recent reversal in the traffic direction.

In Wellswood and Torwood, there is recognition of small hotels, but brownfields sites could be redeveloped for housing, while retaining a redevelopment of Torwood Street.

Throughout the draft plan there is a strong presumption of protection of existing open green spaces including prime sites like Babbacombe Downs and playing fields.

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  • TorbayLuvva  |  December 02 2012, 12:22PM

    Mike Lister - I disagree. To conform with the new Local Plan, the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan has to allocate sites for 1,500+ new homes in the Town Centre/Harbourside area, 1,000+ new homes in the Gateway area and 1,500+ new homes elsewhere in the built up area of Torquay. Site specific detail is included in the SHLAA, so that should be a starting point along with the Council's latest 5 year housing supply schedule. Are you not preparing spreadsheets? It is probably unrealistic to think you can tinker with the Neighbourhood Plan every few years - who is going to pay for the new consultation exercise, examination process and referendum which would be required every time the Plan is changed? Regarding empty homes, most people will agree that getting these back into use is part of the solution, but substantial amounts of public money are required - the latest capital budget in the reports pack for the next Council meeting shows that there is still only going to be £500K available up until March 2016 (and it is borrowed money). So as I say below, even with other grants from central government, this will only allow up to 33 empty homes across the Bay to be put back into use per year. We can debate the detail ad infinitum, but I return to my original point about the Torquay Forum seemingly not having fully appreciated the scale of new housing which is being planned. Torquay already has built density comparable to many cities and it will not be possible to find brownfield sites for 4,000 new homes, so you ought to start scrutinising the SHLAA and working out which greenfield sites will have to be built on. The other key consideration is the need for affordable homes - as the draft Local Plan says, in Torbay only 8% of the housing stock is classed as affordable, compared to 18% nationally. The Council has a policy that 30% of new developments should be affordable, yet we have seen that the Council is prepared to offer what it calls 'significant discounts' to enable development. This has meant that developers such as Cavanna at Yannons Farm in Paignton are going to build 220 homes on that site, but only 15% will be affordable not 30%. Therefore, your Forum might also want to debate this problem when considering major development sites. I cannot attend tomorrow evening, but I wish you well - the future of Torquay is in your hands.

  • mikelister66  |  December 01 2012, 11:15AM

    TorbayLuvva - we are adding site specific detail, as I'm sure you are aware but it is unrealistic to think we are going to plan exactly where the 4,000 new homes for the next 20 years are going to go. These homes will come from various sources, as discussed and it can be difficult to say exactly how many homes a site will yield without doing detailed design work. Personally, I've always seen that this will be an evolving document, without a crystal ball we can't predict the next 20 years. If we need to update the plan in 5 years we should be able to. This will give us the opportunity to update if as spindleshanks suggest, the owners of our identified sites don't want to develop. Regarding the empty homes, if by your figures it costs £12,000 per home to get it back on to the market that is surely more attractive than the cost of a new build at upwards of £100,000. You ask where the money is coming from for these but that's a question for all of the housing. Bringing empty homes back into use is better than building on greenfield sites. 150 homes a year equals one Scotts Meadow.

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  • spindleshanks  |  November 30 2012, 8:13AM

    Cruey - Paignton and Brixham have their own Neighbourhood Plans but the Herald Express have chosen this week to write about the Torquay one as the draft is presented for the first time to the public. Sl4bber - you're spot on reference the payments required per dwelling. At the moment these payments are taking 6 months to negotiate before planning consent is granted, (apparently Torbay Council is notorious for this delay). If the council really wanted to kick start Torquay town centre development perhaps it could waive these payments on housing developments on brownfield sites? Afterall, the Section 106 payments only become payable when a development begins, i.,e planning has been granted, developer with funds found, etc., etc.

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  • sl4bber  |  November 30 2012, 1:27AM

    The problem is that most of these brownfield sites are not owned by developers - but by private individuals, and are not of interest to developers unless detailed planning permission has been approved. Owners of such sites not only have to bear the cost of architects etc. in getting detailed planning approval - but face an added demand from the planners of around £9,000 per dwelling before they will grant planning permission. This is in addition to a similar grant the council receives from the Government for redeveloping brownfield sites. Civic greed! that's the problem.

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  • Cruey  |  November 30 2012, 12:39AM


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  • TorbayLuvva  |  November 29 2012, 7:24PM

    Mike Lister - it's worrying if as VC you don't think the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan has to specify where 4,000 new homes are going to be located because this is exactly the purpose of Neighbourhood Plans - they are designed to add site specific detail to Local Plans. On the issue of bringing empty homes back into use, the draft Local Plan might say the target is 150 per year but if it was going to cost £1.2m to bring 100 empty homes back into use and this was going to take 3 years until 2015, where are all these extra millions going to come from in the current economic climate? Spindleshanks - I agree with much of what you say. The Council has also committed itself to building thousands of new homes because it needs some of the related developer contributions to fund the new Link Road. This will mean less money is available to spend on infrastructure and other necessary improvements in the immediate areas of development, whether in the town centre or on greenfield. If you haven't seen it yet, there is a briefing paper all about this subject in the reports pack just published for the full Council meeting on 6th Dec.

  • spindleshanks  |  November 29 2012, 4:46PM

    You raise a very valid point TorbayLuvva regarding the development of specific numbers on specific sites. The trouble is, neither the Neighbourhood or Local plans can force the owners of brownfield sites to develop them (including those owned by the council) even if they could get planning permission, nor identify potential brownfield sites if the current owners don't express an interest in developing them and most important of all, secure the funding to pay for the developments. The example I gave of 200 new homes on brownfield sites in just three roads in Torquay town centre is a sound figure following a detailed analysis locally in our community. If the same exercise was conducted throughout the remainder of the town, the number would greatly increase; especially if property owners put their hands up and said their sites could be offered for development. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Roebuck House suddenly became available as a development opportunity so you can fully understand the problem of forward planning in Torquay if the council's own planning department didn't know they were on the move and the property they were vacating could be available for housing development. That said I am concerned that developers are being denied opportunities to develop sites in conservation areas in Torquay when it suits the council, yet major developments on pretty sensitive sites (like a five storey hotel next to the Pavilion or development at Oldway) can overcome similar constraints. Put simply, there doesn't appear to be a level playing field. I know at least one developer with substantial funding who is about to walk away from Torquay for this very reason.

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  • mikelister66  |  November 29 2012, 4:21PM

    TorbayLuvva - wish I knew who you really were. A couple of things to consider/remember. This plan needs to be read in conjunction with the council's local plan, it may not explicitly say in this plan about bringing homes back onto the market but it is mentioned in the local plan. The plans are complimentary. What we want to achieve with this first round of consultation is to check we are on the right track, we don't want to get too detailed before finding out we are on the wrong track. All the ideas coming out now about self build, changing shops to homes and bringing empty homes back onto the market can all be added to the document. I'm not sure anyone is expecting the NP to work out exactly where the 4,000 homes are going to go. The idea is to highlight areas that we are happy with. This may be endorsing areas that have ideas mooted before or it may be highlighting new sites. Part of this process is to make it easier for development to happen by giving community consensus to sites ahead of them going to planning. Regarding your Herald article about bringing 100 homes back on to the market (from March) I would suggest that has been superseded by the local plan which does refer to 150 houses per year. It estimates that there are 1300 empty properties in Torbay, which is 13% of the 10,000 target.

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  • TorbayLuvva  |  November 29 2012, 3:43PM

    I do appreciate the large amount of unpaid work you do for the community, but my fear from reading the Torquay NP website, minutes of meetings, etc, is that the enormity of what is being proposed by the Council has not yet been fully appreciated. It is relatively easy to identify brownfield town centre sites where a few hundred new homes could be built and personally, I think you should also consider measures which would allow empty / non-viable retail units to be converted into residential - there are far too many retail units in Torquay and there is no going back to the high street of yesteryear. Darren Cowell talks about the Council wanting to bring 150 empty homes back into use, however this would cost a vast amount of money. Herald online article on 17th March 2012, for example, quotes Deputy Mayor and says intention is to bring 100 empty properties back into use by 2015 (ie. 33 per year not 150 - and that is across the whole Bay, so perhaps 20 per year in Torquay). Article says funding is £1.2m - £500K from the Council and £680,000 grant from Homes and Communities Agency. Has more funding become available since March? Either way, a few hundred homes here and there is still just a drop in the ocean when you've got to identify sites for 4,000 new homes (the current flagship development at White Rock will only contain 350 homes when complete, so think 11 more White Rocks or 26 more Scotts Meadows). Since the Torquay NP is supposed to be complete by 31st March 2013, I just think you need address this issue now and be far more specific with ideas about exactly where these 4,000 homes are going to be located - certainly before you engage the wider public in any meaningful way.

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  • spindleshanks  |  November 29 2012, 2:44PM

    Think half the problem facing Torbay as a whole is that we have a planning system that respects buildings more than it respects the people that live in them. You only have to look around the many conservation areas in Torquay to see property after property that has been poorly converted into flats and bedsits. As communities fall apart you end up with areas in which no investor/developer wants to develop new housing. I believe this is the main problem facing Torquay town centre. For the record, the town centre community group I have been involved in over the past few years has identified sites in just three Torquay town centre roads that could provide at least 200 new homes on brownfield sites. I know some of these sites have been presented to the council's planning department for development only to be turned down because of conservation area issues. So as a starting point the question has got to be asked, do we consider buildings to be more important than people? If the answer is Yes then we really do have a problem and one that is bigger than the nimbyism prevalent in most of Torquay outside the town centre itself. Likewise, little consideration has been given to the issue of "house blocking" - I use that term loosely but refer to the number of elderly people in Torbay living on their own in large family homes. Our council seriously needs to look at the provision of high quality retirement "villages" in order to free up some of this housing stock and the "hand-holding" mechanism needed to assist the elderly in making that often emotional down sizing move. Has anybody researched the numbers? I suspect (yes call it a hunch) there is a lot that can be done in Torquay without ripping up the countryside to secure the housing numbers identified in both the Neighbourhood and Local Plans and is something that is surely worth discussing at the meeting on Monday 3rd Dec?

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