A DECISION to lease the town hall car park in Torquay to a supermarket developer has been hailed as the start of a major regeneration of the town centre.
Councillors have agreed to enter into a contract with developers to build a 4,000 sq metre sales space on the site.
Negotiations between the council and developers to build on the site at Lymington Road have been ongoing for some time although the name of the supermarket has yet to be revealed.
The council sees the development of the car park as the first piece in a wider plan to give the Castle Circus area a major economic boost.
The hope is the presence of a major food retailer will encourage shoppers into the town centre and encourage other well-known brands to come to Torquay.
There was broad cross-party support for the plan at a meeting of the full council.
Cllr Alan Tyerman, executive lead for finance and audit, said the proposal to enter into a conditional contract was a 'positive development for Torbay'.
He said: "The town hall car park is one of the very few places in Torquay suitable for development."
He said councillors had to decide whether the offer on the table from Hawkstone PLC was the right one.
Cllr Steve Darling said the proposal was worth it to 'spike the guns of the large out of town supermarkets'.
He proposed an amendment to the recommendation which was agreed by councillors.
The amendment says the terms of a 199-year lease will ensure an annual ground rent of £50,000 plus car parking income together with a capital receipt of not less than £2.5million. The contract to lease the land will be subject to the developer getting planning permission. An application must be made within six months.
Cllr Darren Cowell said: "In my opinion this will help stimulate the growth Torquay needs."
He said the sight of cranes working at developments across the town, such as Palm Court and Torwood Street, could only be good for the area.
Cllr Jenny Faulkner said the area was in desperate need of economic stimulation.
"The fact that we're regenerating the area can only be good," she said.
Cllr Chris Lewis said it was the start of a 20-year vision for improving the town.
"What it will do is attract better shops to Torquay," he added.
It was left to Cllr Cindy Stocks to issue the only word of caution.
She said the Coalition for the Disabled and Shopmobility would need assurances that they could find alternative bases once they make way for the scheme.
Cllr Tyerman said he would do his best to make sure their views were represented.
Deputy mayor David Thomas said it was 'time to put words into action' and get on with the development.
He said: "The scheme has created other interest within town centre locations. I'm confident this is the first.
"We've got other developments in the wings who want to bring forward other town centre schemes which has to be the way forward."