£22 million improvements on the way
Torquay’s Pavillion, Strand and town centre are amongst five areas set to receive government funding following a decision by Torbay Council’s cabinet.
The plans are part of ‘Town Deal for Torquay’, council-organised regeneration projects to be supported by £22 million in grants. The money will come from the Towns Fund, a part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
The projects are:
- Creating homes and retail space on the Strand
- Investing in Torquay town centre
- Restoring Torquay Pavillion
- A new ‘coastal corridor pinch point’ for walking and cycling
- Improving the area around the “GPO” roundabout
At the Strand, the empty Debenhams store will be knocked down and replaced with flats and retail space.
Around £11 million is expected from the government for revitalising Torquay town centre.
The Towns Fund will also go towards restoring Torquay’s Pavilion, a grade-two listed building that has fallen into disrepair. It is hoped the restoration will improve the local economy and increase visitor numbers to the harbour.
Restoring the Pavillion could cost between £7.2 to £10.3 million. Around £1.75 will come from the Towns Fund with the remaining cost split between the council and leaseholder Marine Developments Ltd, a Southampton-based developer.
Councillor Swithin Long (Liberal Democrats, Barton with Watcombe), cabinet member for economic regeneration, tourism and housing said the Pavillion is “culturally significant and crucial to attracting visitors and help to improve the quality of the area.” He said the high cost of refurbishment was partly because the Pavillion has been “left to rot for so many years.”
One million pounds from the Towns Fund will go towards a ‘coastal corridor’ to improve cycling and walking in Torquay. An additional £250,000 from the Towns Fund will go to improving the “GPO” roundabout and taxi waiting area between Union Street and Fleet Street in Torquay.
Councillor Cordelia Law (Liberal Democrats, Tormohun) said: “This will kick start the regeneration in town. Although [they are] not huge projects, in the public realm small differences always make a big difference.”
In July last year, the council submitted a ‘Town Investment Plan’ to the government. Following a successful bid, it was invited to submit detailed businesses cases for £22 million in grants for regeneration projects in Torquay.
Two projects, including a new rail station in Edginswell and improvements to Torquay Harbour, are already underway. Following a unanimous vote by Torbay Council’s cabinet, the government is now expected to rubber-stamp the five remaining more Torquay projects. Planning and construction is due to start early next year.
Leader of the council Steve Darling (Liberal Democrat, Barton with Watcombe) welcomed the regeneration scheme but argued that the money from government amounted to “crumbs from the table” compared to the what that had taken away in recent years. He said the council had lost around half a billion pounds in funding since the start of austerity.
The comments earned Torbay’s leader criticism from Conservative councillors who were in support of the regeneration plans. Conservative Councillor Chris Lewis (Conservative, Preston) said: “I’d like to think the government didn’t hear that. Over £20 million is quite a considerable sum and I would say is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Torquay.”
Councillor Nick Bye (Conservative, Wellswood) added: “Blaming everybody else is never the best.”
Cllr Darling replied that it would be a “dereliction of duty” if he did not flag up the context of a decade of government cuts.
He added: “These sums are actually relatively small compared to what the government has reduced. I think it’s important and we need to have that perspective and, as a champion of Torbay, as I’m sure we all are, we need to make it clear that we demand better for Torbay.”