JIM PARKER: Blueprint is what the people want
IT is entitled 'Change is in your hands' and maps out where Torquay should be over the next 20 years. The Torquay Neighbourhood Plan has been drafted after months of meetings and consultations with various members and organisations out in the community.
It details a whole raft of development — and non-development — proposals to make the town fit for the 21st century.
There are no real big surprises. Many of the proposed projects have been mooted before.
Some will raise eyebrows now they are down in black and white and actually part of a master plan (yet to be formally agreed by the way) to drive the resort forward.
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A supermarket/superstore development for the Town Hall car park is advancing with the council in talks with a potential development partner. That may be progresses with the local authority being asked to agree land lease agreements by as early as Christmas.
An anchor store — couldn't we all do with one of them right now — with an improved multi-storey car park, leisure facilities and homes has been suggested for the Temperance Street area of the town centre.
Homes, shops and a transport hub for the Pimlico area, redevelopment of parts of Swan Street and a community facility for the Rock Road laundry site are other ideas.
Extending the Princess Theatre — nothing new there but badly needed — a 'high rise development' (that could be interesting) for offices etc of the Cary Parade Arcade area and luxury apartments, better shops, a hotel and restaurants which 'would be welcomed' for parts of The Strand are also listed as well as the much talked about hotel development of the marina car park.
Out of town, there is a definite no-no for a superstore at the Edginswell business park, talk of regeneration of the old Newton Road and suggestions to build on land around Torre station.
Out in the sticks, green open spaces would be protected, housing standards and a reversal of the current one-way system in Torre addressed, shopping areas would be enhanced, community centres improved and oh, yes please, a 'real deliverable regeneration of Hele Road and the area' would take place.
It all sounds fantastic. But will any of it ever happen?
Susie Colley, chairman of the neighbourhood plan forum and who deserves a medal for driving this project, believes the answer is 'yes'.
She says this blueprint is different because it's what the people want. They, not public bodies, have come up with the suggestions. All too often in the past schemes have failed because the community have not been on board from the word go.
She says: "This has come from the community and is not council driven. That's the secret with this. This is what makes it exciting. Its from the bottom up as opposed to the top down. Before it was about the council saying we want developers coming in to do this and then going out to consultation. We are doing the opposite."
The master plan has not been based on the council's Local Plan.
Susie says it's now a case of making the two work together. She says: "We need to look at the Local Plan and decide what we want to see and where we can marry it up. Where we do not agree it will be a question of compromise. It is not going to be warfare. We are going to have to meet somewhere in the middle. The only issue may be about housing numbers."
Susie added: "I think if we are realistic about three quarters will be delivered. Quite a few are in the process of. It is just finalising. This is a fantastic tool. It sends out a message to developers that this is what the community wants.
"It is up to us now as a community to bang on the door of the Town Hall and tell them to get the developers down here and progress this.
"If we can do adverts on the Tube in London to get people down here why don't they put this on the Tube as well? It is saying we are open for business."
The draft proposals are being presented to the public at a special meeting at the Riviera International Conference Centre on December 3, starting at 6pm.
It would be a shame if all this work went to waste. Torquay, and Torbay, just has to wake up and smell the coffee here. It really is time to walk the walk and I have said that many times before...
IT is with great sadness that I have to report the passing of a Torbay mayoral hopeful. Hammi the hamster, in the care of Torbay trade union guru Paul Raybould, has gone to that great Hamster heaven in the sky.
The white Syrian had been put forward as a candidate for the mayoral election two years ago but was not accepted.
Evidently, Hammi's sole election pledge was to see a Torbay Wheel installed...
Paul made Torbay MP Adrian Sanders aware of the tragic news. In return, Adrian said: "But for a lack of foresight in accepting her nomination, she was perhaps the best elected mayor Torbay never had. Indeed, I have every confidence that had she been elected she would have successfully gnawed her way through any bureaucratic red tape placed in her way. With her ethnic background, I would have expected her term of office to have been focussed on widening Torbay's international appeal, maybe leading to a twinning arrangement with Hamsterjam.
"Perhaps at this sad time you can take heart in the knowledge that she has gone to a happier place where there are sensible parking charges, no unaffordable third harbours or giant pineapples erupting out of man-made volcanoes."
And Mr Sanders's final word of advice to Paul: "Get a Gerbil next time."