A moment of Marmite Madness? Nope - Keith is deadly serious about Oldway and Pavilion

Torbay Weekly

Keith Richardson is never one for holding back. It makes the Grand Hotel owner and Richardson Hotels millionaire something of a Marmite character - you either like him or you you-know-what him.

There was one of those Keith Richardson Marmite Moments the other day when he was discussing the sorry state of Oldway Mansion and the Pavilion, two hugely faded gems from Torbay's glorious past.

The fate of the two buildings - very much in the headlines of late - is yet to be sealed after years of uncertainty and a distinct lack of TLC from somebody somewhere along the passage of time.

Keith's solution is simple, even abrupt in typical Marmite Mode - 'knock it down, build lots old houses on the site and spend it on the Pavilion turning it into a shopping centre!'

You can't be serious comes back the cry.  But he is. Deadly serious. In fact, he has even shared his views with council leader Steve Darling

He writes: "I am deeply upset at the inaction on the Pavilion and Oldway Mansion. You know the history of these two sites much better than me but without positive action this situation will not change within the next 20 years. There is no Fairy Godmother with a bag of money to save these buildings.

"Oldway Mansion is useless without a profitable future. What is it? It is useless as an hotel. What is the purpose of preserving it? I love listed buildings but without a future please demolish it and build lots of beautiful houses. You could make loads of profits which could support the development of the Pavilion into a shopping centre. It, at least, has location on its side.

"Do you think a Fairy Godmother will appear within the next 20 years to solve these two big problems? "

Keith tells me: "We were walking around the place on Sunday. The broken windows all had plywood on them.

"I am not a specialist in these things but it just won't work as a hotel. It is in the wrong place.

"You could make a success of the Pavilion as a shopping complex. Put money into that.

"Look at the success of the nearby Abbey Sands? What better location?"

It is somewhat ironic that Keith is all for pulling down the poor old yet historic Pavilion when he has just spent hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds on buying up old properties in the town centre.

He has just bought at auction for under £200,000 the old Town Hall in Abbey Road which is a listed building.

He has already bought the former Municipal Chambers in Castle Circus and the old courthouse building just around the corner and up the road.

Like the other two properties, the former Town Hall will probably be converted into flats - six or eight.

"It is an old property. It is beautiful. It would cost £2million to build today," he says.

Keith insists: "I am trying to modernise the town centre. The local authority wants to condense the high street and have more residential. I am doing just what it wants."

He talks of gentrification - officially it is the process of changing the character of a neighbourhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses.

"In my early days in Manchester gentrification was very important for doing up rundown areas," says Keith.

Gentrification can also be viewed in not a very nice way as poorer people are forced out of their homes. I am certain that is not the intention here.

Keith says he just takes pleasure in restoring old and rundown buildings and finds it 'magical.'

He adds: "I am doing great with my hotels across the board. I have time on my hands and I am happy in Torquay."

He calls it his serendipity - finding something he loves doing by chance.

"Serendipity is a pleasurable state. I am in a pleasurable state," says Keith.

I did warn you there was a Marmite Moment coming on or is it a Moment of Madness?  You won't stop the Marmite Man making his views known either way ....

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