Our future prosperity is right on our doorstep and staring us in the face

Beach huts

The Cove huts - Credit: Kay Elliott architects

I am old enough to remember the halcyon days when you couldn't see the sand on Torre Abbey beach for deck chairs. The days of a sun terrace over-looking the sands with little cafes and changing facilities below and lobster-coloured visitors sat with hankies on their heads.  It is not politically correct to call then grockles anymore and the seaside photographer snapping away at the bikini-clad beauties sunning themselves would have today been carted off by the boys in blue long before he had chance to say 'cheese'.

Now I know those says are long gone and we will never see the like of them again.  Foreign holidays and guaranteed sun and all sorts of other things made sure of that.

But we still have those natural assets and the Naturally Inspiring beauty of the English Riviera for which many other areas in the UK and for that matter Europe crave. But are we making the most of them?

Donkey rides and Punch and Judy shows may be things of the past. Torbay's aspiration in recent years has been to go more up-market and its goal now is to become THE premier holiday resort in the UK with a more all-year-round-offer.

That's great but now more than ever before - with Staycation the in-thing - is the time to show people what we have to offer and why they should keep coming back not just on the back of a pandemic. Staring us right in the face is the answer - our natural environment.

Now before I hear some of you say 'Parker's on one again - he wants to build skyscraper hotels on our beaches' - that is not the case. I just think we have forgotten some of our most cherished assets where investment of an acceptable fashion is needed.

Take, for instance, Beacon Cove in Torquay. Agatha Christie's favourite beach, just as popular as Torre Abbey in those glory days, Local residents have done a brilliant job doing what they can to protect, promote and improve the cove.  But it has become a sad shadow of itself, deprived of investment, a bit of TLC and now a haven for drunks and anti-social behaviour.

Most Read

But there was a hint of a new beginning for the Cove at a Torbay planning committee meeting this week.

Permission was given for the building five holiday 'homes' or chalets and a kiosk at Beacon Cove

The buildings, set for private land on the cove’s hillside, were submitted for planning permission by Hemel Hempstead Property Co. (Apsley) Limited, a Hertfordshire-based property developer.

Developers argue that the holiday homes – which they describe as ‘huts’ -would not affect public access to the cove and its beach and would improve security through ‘passive surveillance’ – people deterring others from criminal activity through their presence.

Some residents fear the proposed accommodation could increase anti-social behaviour if holidaymakers use the buildings for late-night partying or other disruptive activities.

But the council hopes the development could attract tourism revenue and help change the perception of Torbay.

Speaking before the vote, Councillor Jack Dart said: “The site is in need of some TLC. I think this will show that people are interested in building here, they are interested in improving sites that are perhaps in need of some TLC."

The 27-year-old councillor praised the modern look of the proposed buildings, adding: “Talking on behalf of young people, I do have to say young people need to be encouraged to stay here.

“Young people will be looking at us as a local authority, as a local council, at developers and saying ‘What’s going to keep me here? What’s going to keep us here? What’s going to encourage young people to come here and spend their money and their time?’ and I  think this is the sort of thing that will do that.”

Julie Brandon form the Torquay Neighbourhood Forum urged the council to reject the plans, claiming the buildings could create environmental harm and increase antisocial behaviour.

The huts would be holiday homes only and any single user would only be able to stay for a maximum of 12 weeks a year. 

So some movement on the Cove - and what about the adjacent and empty Living Coasts site towering above which was vacated by the Wild Planet Trust and Paignton Zoo at the start of the pandemic 18 month ago. The Trust has a lease on the Torbay Council-owned site and asked local agents Bettesworths to take it to the market.

Bettesworths have been pleased with the response. A spokesman said: "We have had significant interest nationally, regionally and locally with a  mix of ideas and operators. It has been a very useful exercise."

 He said it was now up to the zoo and council to decide the way ahead. Bear in mind, the Trust is still paying for the upkeep and security of the site

The council has hinted that they would kike to something similar to before on the site with  an environmental or maritime theme.

Whatever goes there has to be sustainable and good enough to give the Cove back its landmark status

By the way , I understand none of the 'expressions of interest' mention residential development so  bang goes my hotel idea!