Pavilion sorted before Torbay elections? You must be mad!

GREAT start to the New Year. My old sparring partner Alan Griffey has been in touch with one of our pet subjects – the Pavilion – the topic of conversation.

Me and Mr G have never exactly seen eye to eye over regeneration and redevelopment projects in the Bay and the plans for the Marina car park and Pavilion on the Torquay water front are right up there at the top of the controversy tree.

I honestly cannot remember how many years the Nicolas James Hotel Group’s proposals for the landmark site have been in the making, but it must be nearing double figures.

The scheme comprising a tower block of apartments, top-notch hotel with restaurants, shops and the refurbishment of the closed, sad and forlorn Pavilion has never had an easy ride from day one.

There was hope for supporters that the day had finally arrived when, after what must now be almost a couple of years ago, planners finally gave the project the go-ahead.

But campaigners were far from done and went down the judicial review route when it was discovered a marine/environment survey had not been carried out and consent was sent back to the drawing board.

I gather the developers are now under pressure to come up with some answers to the future. If the scheme is to progress it may have to go back to square one from a planning process perspective.

With all this in mind over the Christmas and New Year I asked the protest campaigners what their Plan B would be if the Pavilion project never happened.

Enter Mr Griffey, coordinator of Torbay Friends of the Earth. He had three bites of the cherry.

“How about grassing over the top level of the Marina car park and shoring up the Pavilion with a £3 million heritage grant. Simples.  Next question?” was one response.

“How about grassing over the top level of the Marina car park and shoring up the Pavilion with a £3 million heritage grant.   You’d have a second Cary Green for visitors to sit in and admire the views, and a refurbished Pavilion ripe for any adventure.  Both would enhance our sea front,” was another.

And last but no least: “How about grassing over the top level of the Marina car park and shoring up the Pavilion with a £3 million heritage grant.   You’d have a second Cary Green for visitors to sit in and admire the views, and a refurbished Pavilion ripe for any adventure.  My guess would be as a ‘Torquay-through-time / Geopark’ shop front for the Museum.”

Just to explain the Cary Green bit, this – together with the height of the apartments – was one aspect of the proposals the ‘no’ camp particularly disliked. It would have been used for hotel parking although the developers promised that public open would still be provided in the future.

As it is, the ‘Green,’ its views and environs, including bus stops, a wooden taxi office and a fountain which is a much-loved target for vandals, has been saved.

Good luck to Mr G with his alternative plans, although I am wondering how we would secure a heritage grant in the first place? If we did how long would it take and would the rotting Pavilion still be standing? And last but not least how would such a facility make money and be sustainable for the future? Answers please on the back of a fag packet which is Cary Green – a tad over the top and tongue-in-cheek I hasten to add.

One thing is for certain, the Friends of the Earth man’s ideas would not be Susie Colley’s cup of tea. The fiery Torquay Chamber of Commerce chairman says the latest plans for the site should go ahead as first planned.

She says: “What is going on at the Pavilion? I am going to make contact to see what is happening.

“They should just get on with it. In a minute it is going to fall down. Get on with the project as it is.”

Susie has welcomed the start of the equally long-awaited Torwood Street redevelopment just around the corner and she has invited the developers to present at the chamber’s annual meeting on January 28.

She adds: “We all want to save the planet but we also want people to be able to make a living down here. We have to look forward. Why are people to negative?

“I am in favour of saving the planet but we have to have something that works for the majority in Torquay and not the minority.”

While on the subject of the seafront, Susie is a keen dog walker and uses Abbey Gardens twice a day. She wonders why the big pond in Abbey Gardens is empty and why the fountain in Princess Gardens is apparently not working.

Susie says: “The Abbey Gardens pond is empty and has been since about August/September time.

They drained it after it leaked but it is still empty.

“Regarding the fountain in Princes Gardens I think some kids have been in there and kicked things around.”

A council official has told Susie that repair works for the pond have been ordered with contractors but when they actually start is dependent on the weather as the material requires the ground temperature to be above a certain level and the surface to stay dry for curing.

Susie says that the Town Hall will probably also point to budget cuts when it comes to the routine upkeep of the seafront. You can’t blame really as millions of pounds are once again slashed in government funding.

But Susie says: “Why can’t they afford to do anything about it? They have to start looking at the bigger picture. Visitors will just not return.

“I went to Teignmouth on New Year’s Day. It was rammed. There wasn’t a parking space anywhere.

“They have spent money on their parks and gardens.

“It is tidy and attractive and people want to go there. It is called business sense.”

Surely doesn’t this show why private sector investment projects like the Pavilion are key and essential to Torbay and its future?

Torbay planning committee chairman Mark  Kingscote says he has no idea when the Pavilion project may come back to planners for consideration.

He will have an open mind on any future Pavilion application if and when it does emerge.

And he emphasises he is speaking in general terms when he says: “We should be out there making sure that investment and jobs happen.”

Of course, there is another thing which would almost certainly will get in the way of any quick progress if the Pavilion project was ever to rise from the deep.

It’s something called the local elections. They happen in May and if you think any potential councillor looking for a cross in the box will be putting their head above the parapet and champion such a sensitive and controversial scheme before the voting is over you’re nearly as mad as that small bloke with a big hat at a tea party.

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