Torquay has been a turbulent place of late, politically at least. Whether it’s alleged conflicts of interest or repeating votes of no confidence in elected officials based in the area, or planning bodies who run roughshod over wishes of local residents and ward councillors, one would wonder what advantages there are to a person, or their loved ones, in stepping up to get elected in the first place.
The turbulence is a shame, as the town and the Torbay area has potential, as well as a well-organised, strong local team of footsoldiers who will not see their wishes dismissed, and who are now at loggerheads with parts of Torbay Council and other officials.
The beautiful heart of Torquay was granted Conservation Area status in 2004 and contains over 80 listed buildings. From 1890 to 1930, the Borough Engineer of Torbay, Henry Augustus Garrett, laid out the Princess Gardens, the Terrace Walk, Pier Pavilion and Torquay Pavilion on Torquay seafront.
Torquay Pavilion is faced with white tiles made of Doulton’s Carrara-enamelled stoneware. Its central copper-covered dome is topped with a life-size figure of Britannia and two smaller domes on each side bear figures of Mercury. Finely sculpted Art Nouveau-style cast iron edges the steps to the promenade deck and the octagonal bandstands. The Pavilion opened in 1912 and, apart from the foyer and auditorium, it had lounges and a cafe, all of which were panelled with oak. A municipal orchestra was founded, and many famous conductors and singers performed there. It was proposed to demolish the building in 1973 but, because of public protests, it was listed in the same year. It closed in 1976, when it was leased to Rank Organisation and the interior was destroyed in adaptations for various types of amusements, first as a skating rink and in the 1980s as a shopping arcade. As of 2012 it is closed awaiting restoration: the steel girders which form its framework are heavily corroded.
Torquay Pavilion has Grade II listed status. When a building is listed, it is listed in its entirety, which means that both the exterior and the interior are protected. In addition, any object or structure fixed to the building, and any object or structure within the “curtilage” of the building, which although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so before 1st July 1948 are treated as part of the listed building. The National Planning Policy Framework para 132, stated by Historic England “gives registered parks and gardens an equal status in the planning system with listed buildings and scheduled monuments”
Any planning applications on the Torquay site require listed building consent.
In February 2017, outline planning permission was granted for a controversial planning scheme on and around the listed Pavilion which includes the following:
- An 11-storey tower block of flats on the Torquay harbourside
- A 4-5 storey hotel using the listed Torquay Pavilion as a foyer
- A car park for development on Cary Green, public green space
Save Cary Green and Torquay Pavilion is a Community Campaign, founded in December 2013 to fight this scheme, for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. They are now seeking to take the matter to Court with a Judicial Review of the decision to grant this permission and have hooked up with internationally-experienced planning lawyer, Richard Buxton.
The planning permission granted in February 2017 was re-affirmed at a second planning meeting in May.
Country Squire Magazine has seen detailed evidence which shows that Torbay Council’s planning decision for this location disregards local and national policies for the Conservation Area; that its omissions about required listed planning are so numerous as to be interpreted as either inept or worse. Arguably, it fails to economically justify the significant harm that the scheme would cause. It is clear that the voices and objections of locals and visitors have been consistently ignored. Astoundingly, the planning committee Chairman (who voted in favour of the scheme) was quoted in the local newspaper as saying: “Sometimes we have to look past objections and be more objective”.
The questions needing asking here are:
- Are Torbay Council Planning Division up to the task?
- Are they too directed by vested interests?
- Why does the viability of the pavilion need to be linked to such a large and unsightly development?
In the course of this ongoing series on the Torbay area, which includes an area of the Great British Countryside under threat by the decision-making of Torbay planners, Country Squire Magazine will show:
- That Torbay Council is comprised of mostly excellent councillors and officials, trying their best.
- That there are some rotten apples in the Council who form an undemocratic clique.
- That laws have been broken.
- That legislation protecting the British Countryside is being ignored.
- That officials are trampling over local community wishes.
- That Torbay Council Planning decisions are arguably so often suspect as to render all their decisions invalid in a court of law.
- Far too often, the same contractors crop up. Why might that be?