Mayor's latest vision for Torbay revives harbour planning row
A 20-year vision which aims to maximise the potential of a Westcountry resort has been criticised for failing to provide enough affordable housing and high level job opportunities.
Critics claim Torbay's Local Planning Document fails to properly address the limited job market and the need for social housing.
The strategy also talks of an extension to Torquay Harbour, which some say is merely a reworking of controversial plans for a third harbour costing £175 million already shot down by councillors.
Tory Mayor Gordon Oliver urged people to give the plan a chance and pledged it would lead to a better Bay within five years.
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The plan claims to prioritise new jobs, and includes proposals to breathe new life into Torbay's town centres, policies to secure 1.5 jobs per house, and promotion of investment into core tourism areas.
It strives to capitalise on its surroundings and the natural environment, and to improve accessibility as well as creating more sustainable communities and to make the most of climate change.
Among the projects outlined are the Northern Arm Breakwater at Brixham, the expansion of primary schools, new sports facilities at Clennon Valley, a watersports centre of excellence and education, and employment space at West Paignton and North West Torquay, to make the most of the benefits of the new South Devon Link Road.
But Lib Dem group leader Steve Darling warned it was wrong to put an emphasis on shared equity housing, when only 300 out of Torbay's 3,000-strong social housing waiting list are hoping to get a footing in such homes. He warned not enough was being done to lift the local economy out of a reliance on low-wage tourism jobs.
He said: "Gordon Oliver tends to play fast and loose with reality. He is now saying 'oh no we won't have a third harbour, this is just a harbour extension', but it's just semantics."
Darren Cowell, Torbay's only Labour councillor, said he was "cautiously optimistic", because the proposals dovetailed widespread consultation through neighbourhood forums in each of the three towns.
From tomorrow, the draft document will be out to public consultation until November 9.
Mr Oliver said: "We live in an extraordinary place, during extraordinary times. Although it is difficult to predict the long-term future with accuracy, we need a plan that gives us direction towards the outcomes we all want for Torbay."
He said the plan played to Torbay's "unique strengths" – its natural and built environment, its harbours, its people and its brand as the English Riviera.
He said it did not "shy away" from the challenges the Bay faces in terms of economic recovery, improving skills and balancing of jobs and housing.
"If we give this plan a chance, allow the ambition it expresses an opportunity to flourish, and give places, people and businesses a chance to change and grow, I am very confident that in five years' time we will all see a much better Bay. That will give us the momentum we need to deliver even more over the following 15 years plus."