Holiday chalets plan for Agatha Christie's favourite beach in Torquay

Beacon Cove at Torquay, showing Imperial Court and Living Coasts

Beacon Cove at Torquay, showing Imperial Court and Living Coasts - Credit: Kay Elliott

Fresh plans have been submitted to build holiday chalets in Beacon Cove in Torquay.

The once-popular beach, next to the closed Living Coasts coastal zoo, has become quieter in recent years and been hit by anti-social behaviour.

Image of proposed chalets at Beacon Cove, Torquay

Image of proposed chalets at Beacon Cove, Torquay - Credit: Kay Elliott

A new planning application has been submitted for a kiosk and five units of overnight holiday accommodation, built on a steep slope behind the beach, below the seven-storey Imperial Court apartment block.

An identical scheme was approved in 2016 following similar proposals three years earlier, but the planning permission lapsed because the development was not carried out.

The new application has been submitted by Torquay-based architects Kay Elliott, on behalf of Hemel Hempstead Property Co (Apsley) Ltd.

Beacon Cove in 1960 - packed with people enjoying a day at the seaside

Beacon Cove in 1960 - Credit: Kay Elliott

The sheltered bay near Torquay Harbour was known as Ladies’ Bathing Cove at the turn of the 20th century and was popular with thriller writer Agatha Christie.

The land is owned by Torbay Council and once formed part of the Imperial Hotel complex to provide access to the beach. 

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The remains of the path and steps can still be seen and photographs from the 1960s show a lifeboat station at the edge of the cove, later used as a cafe and beach huts, which was demolished in 1975.

A Victorian baths complex, later renamed the Marine Spa, was built on the headland between the cove and harbour, and was demolished after a swimming tragedy in 1971.

The Coral Island entertainment centre followed and was replaced by Living Coasts, which announced its permanent closure last year.

Beacon Cove at Torquay

Beacon Cove today - Credit: Kay Elliott

The application, which received 10 objections during the consultation period, was recommended for approval with a series of conditions at a meeting of Torbay Council’s planning committee on Monday night.

But committee chair Nick Pentney announced that it had been deferred to allow time for clarification on biodiversity issues.

The proposals are for five holiday chalets and a retail kiosk in a crescent-shaped timber-clad building on the hillside above the beach.

Each unit would have a living area, kitchenette and toilet on the ground floor, opening onto a shared terrace, with sleeping areas on a mezzanine level.

Beacon Cove at Torquay

Beacon Cove - Credit: Kay Elliott

The main access would be the footpath from Beacon Quay car park, but the proposals include reinstating and extending the disused steps behind the building, providing a second access to Beacon Hill.

A waste water treatment unit, designed for use where the mains sewerage system is not available, would be installed in the void beneath the terrace, and treated foul and surface water would be discharged into the sea.

The council received 10 objections, including from the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan Forum and the Torquay Town Centre Community Partnership.

The concerns included allowing a private development near a public beach, the visual impact on the open space, the effect on the environment, and setting a precedent for development in other coves.

The objection from the neighbourhood plan forum claimed the proposals would be ‘overdevelopment’ of a site currently without permanent structures and would have a 'significant impact on the openness of the area'.

The objection also said the proposals did not appear to have met neighbourhood plan policies on the impact on protected species, habitats and biodiversity, and on marine management planning.

A response from the council’s community safety department raised concerns about drainage, and pointed out any discharge of waste water onto a designated bathing beach would need consent from the Environment Agency.

A report from planning officer Craig Davies said the site was not protected as an open space by planning policies and had seen various forms of development in the past, including buildings in a similar position to the proposed block.

The report said that given the previous planning consents, it was considered the scheme did not present 'significant conflict' with the neighbourhood plan, and that it complied with policies to develop tourism in the harbourside area.

It said the high quality design, previously approved in 2016, mixed contemporary and traditional beach hut styles, would fit in with the landscape and improve the character of the conservation area, and would not do unacceptable harm to the character of the cove.

It said the development would help reduce the potential for anti-social behaviour.

The report recommended approval with a series of conditions covering details of the development and the associated works, and restricting the accommodation to short-term holiday lets.

A decision is expected to be made by the planning committee after the outstanding matters have been clarified.