POLL: 50/50 split shows Plymouth is divided on Home Park plans
JAMES BRENT'S £50m plan for Higher Home Park is nothing if not controversial.
But it demonstrates the passion of the people of Plymouth that more than 1,000 votes have been cast since we launched our poll on the issue late last week.
With the voting standing at a stalemate – exactly 50/50 – there is no doubt that the development has divided opinion in our community.
It's not surprising that such a large scheme has its supporters and its opponents. And both sides have valid reasons for their arguments.
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Business leaders who support the plan see its potential for improving Plymouth's destination potential.
The city badly needs more conference and hotel facilities and a new ice rink and cinema will be welcome leisure facilities.
The Chamber of Commerce also welcomes such a large investment in Plymouth at a time when jobs are so badly needed.
On the flip side, lovers of Central Park are concerned that the development is too big and will have a detrimental effect on their beloved green space.
They are not convinced that a development of such a size and scale is appropriate.
Voting in our poll continues and the debate rages on at plymouthherald.co.uk.
There remains two more days for readers to have their say before councillors meet to vote on the scheme on Thursday.
With a 50/50 split, our poll does not send a clear message to those who will make that decision.
Officers have recommended approval but it is the elected councillors who have the final say.
But our poll should tell them that people care passionately about the future development of Plymouth and their decision on Home Park should be made with the greatest respect and care.
PLYMOUTH BUSINESS LEADERS BACK HOME PARK PLAN
THE £50million scheme to redevelop the area around Plymouth Argyle's home ground has won the backing of city business leaders.
But some park users have spoken out against the ambitious proposals by Argyle boss James Brent's Akkeron Group, saying it will ruin their peace and quiet.
The plans to redevelop Argyle's Mayflower stand and build an ice rink, hotel, cinema and shops will be considered by Plymouth's planning committee on Thursday.
Dr David Gibson, managing director of the National Marine Aquarium, said: "For Plymouth to achieve its full potential as a destination we need to be looking beyond the day visitor market.
"To achieve this we need more leisure and tourism activities which will increase the attractiveness and critical mass of what the city has to offer.
"This will provide more reasons for people to visit and then encourage them to stay longer.
"I am very supportive of any high-quality proposals which contribute towards this and welcome the vision and investment proposed for Higher Home Park by Akkeron Group."
David Parlby, chief executive of Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, said: "Such a significant project would form a major spur to Plymouth's tourism and leisure sector, and indirectly to other sectors.
"The fact that major players like Akkeron are prepared to invest in Plymouth during these difficult economic conditions demonstrates that the city is increasingly being recognised as the economic hub for the South West peninsula."
Jon Morcom, chair of Conference Plymouth, said: "Hosting conferences is an economic driver for Plymouth. With an estimated spend across the local economy of £180 per delegate per day, this sector has been identified as one with real growth potential for the city.
"The development offers another venue that can attract delegations to the city."
Charles Howeson, chairman of the Plymouth Area Business Council, said: "The Higher Home Park proposal and all that will now go with it is not just the icing on the cake, but will become the core."
Janice Hunt, acting chair of the Friends of Central Park, said: "We are against it because we feel it's an inappropriately large development in the centre of Plymouth's primary park.
"There will be a seven-storey hotel looming over the park.
"Contrary to claims, the development won't be entirely within the Home Park footprint.
"And we don't approve of a two-lane road into the park."
She called the planning application "a foregone conclusion".
"People come to the park for leisure and quiet, and now they are going to have 24-hours-a-day traffic with air, light and noise pollution.
"It's like dumping Marsh Mills supermarket into Central Park.
Akkeron Leisure says hundreds of new jobs will be created and millions of pounds will boost the local economy during the two-year construction, and when the new facilities begin operation.
As part of the development Akkeron will deliver £1.1million worth of improvement to Central Park. These include new tree-lined routes, changing rooms for youth sports field users and "gateways" at key entrances to the park.