Letter to local press from Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Libdem councillors.
The decision to allow the building of a 12 storey block of flats on Torquay harbourside is a landmark decision for Torbay in a number of ways.
While there is little to be gained from going over the decision about the Pavilion, I think it is worth reflecting on a couple of key points.
The decision, about eight years ago, by our previous elected Mayor, to seek the provision of a four star hotel on the harbourside as part of the redevelopment of the Pavilion, set the project off on the wrong foot, as this resulted in a situation in which the developers were trying to force too much on to this site.
I remain surprised at the number of people who do not realise that a more modest residential development would have released enough money to restore the Pavilion and not cause significant harm to the setting of our historic harbourside.
I fear that, after 7 years of negotiations, Torbay had painted itself into a corner, so it had little choice but to grant planning permission or look foolish. This delay has also resulted in an increase to the cost of renovating the Pavilion by about half a million pounds, the total now reaching £2.7 million.
In the aftermath of this decision we need to ensure that lessons are learnt.
The Council and developers need to stop dictating to the local community and start engaging with them. One can never please all of the people all of the time but we need to ensure that our council begin taking account of our community and their needs.
The Council needs to ensure that developers have a clear understanding that where there are significant works planned in sensitive spots like our harbourside then developers need to have a meaningful dialogue with the community throughout the planning process.
These lessons need to be learnt quickly, as in our Full Council meeting in April councillors will be asked to vote for master plans to regenerate our town centres. As Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council we will want to see what lessons have been learnt from the Pavilion debacle. For me, there are three that leap to mind.
• Short time scales of 2 to 3 years for developers to come up with proposals
• A clear strategy to engage and listen and act with the community
• Let’s stop calling each other names and work together in the best interests of Torbay.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader
Mobile 07736 658666