Jim Parker: Witnessing Renaissance Torquay style... just a few jewels missing from that crown

Torquay Devon UK marina with boats and yachts on beautiful day on the English Riviera in colour

Naturally Inspiring - Torquay's waterfront - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The diggers are in making a mess on Torquay seafront.  Great! Hopefully you will also workmen in Rock Walk in the next few weeks. It is all part of a new beginning for the town. A Renaissance.  

Princess Gardens and the Banjo area are being improved and new lighting is being installed at Rock Walk (talk about going back to the future; mum wasn’t happy when the lights were changed several years ago).   

At the other end of the town, Upton Park is being given a big facelift to complete the hat-trick of ‘accelerator’ projects linked to the £21.9 million Town Deal government funding to breathe new life into Torquay.  

Times are a-changing fast.    

The £32 million Torwood Street development, including a Hilton branded hotel, is all but complete and a new Premier Inn is rising from the ground on part of the Terrace car park.  

The Strand area itself is due for a facelift and further private investment is coming in – the latest involve plans to bring back to life the old 400 with a new The Quay Club identity and 50 new jobs on the harbourside.  

What about the other jewels that need a bit of polishing to complete Torquay’s crown – the Pavilion, the Living Coasts and Beacon Cove?  

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Nobody needs reminding of the old hotel and apartments plan for the Pavilion and marina car park.  Rightly or wrongly, that was sunk. Trouble is the Pavilion building itself will be going the same way if we are not careful but it would appear that talks are continuing with lease holders MDL – and there may yet be some kind of residential development there!  

Council leader Steve Darling says: “There is pro-active dialogue taking place and we hope that come the spring there will be a clear sense of direction as far as progressing that site is concerned.”  

There has been talk of a much-needed overhaul for the Pavilion building and a ‘community use space’. But what about residential? Won’t some kind of scheme be needed to finance the overall project?  

Some funding from the Town Deal pot has helped and Cllr Darling says: “There will be some sort of enablement and sympathetic development but what I will say is that it will be significantly different to what was proposed there previously. That was significantly out of keeping with the area.  

“We want it to be on a similar size and scale to the buildings that are already on the inner harbour rather than being the carbuncle that was planned.”  

There seems little movement on the empty Living Coasts site.  Paignton Zoo owners the Wild Planet Trust were forced to close its sister attraction at the start of Lockdown One and then announced it was staying closed for good.

I gather there was initially a flurry of interest for the site - leased from Torbay Council on a 125-year lease - but nothing ever happened. 

Cllr Darling said: "The ball is very much in their court.  I understand they have approached agents to see what opportunities there may be for that site. That is very welcome. “ 

With Living Coasts comes next door Beacon Cove - one of Torquay's hidden gems and a shadow of its former glory for years. Planners are in the throes of considering a development there involving beach chalets. 

Cllr Darling says: "I go back to my childhood days in the 70s when I can remember it being a much more open access beach. I was speaking to a scuba diver down there who was saying how marvellous the underwater life is there." 

Perhaps any Living Coasts deal could involve Beacon Cove at the same time with a revamped Imperial Hotel looking down on them. Great combination. 

Picture a waterfront starting at the Abbey Sands, past a glowing Rock Walk, revamped Pier Point and Princess Theatre, through improved Princess Gardens and a new Banjo, on past a born-again Pavilion, with a harbourside Continental cafe culture feel, apartments, independent shops, a new Living Coasts, five-star Beacon Cove and five-star Imperial to top it off! 

There you go – Renaissance. Torquay style.