Jim Parker: No let up on game-changing projects in Torbay

The Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay - its lease has been taken over by the counci

The Riviera International Conference Centre in Torquay - its lease has been taken over by the council Photo: English Riviera BID Company - Credit: Archant

Jim Parker: Behind the scenes some game-changing projects for the Bay are going ahead despite the 'madness'

The Town Hall has been putting all its efforts into steering the Bay through the pandemic. And I have to say that, with the help of its partners and the community generally, that effort has been Herculean.

But that doesn't mean to say Torbay Council has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to other, important issues.

These are hugely important times for the Bay with various game-changing projects and initiatives still very much still on the go.

Some will fit neatly into the Town Hall's recovery plan and help get the Bay Back on Its Feet after the crisis – hopefully and fingers crossed that will include more than £40 million in government grants to rejuvenate the town centres of Torquay and Paignton.

And then, and talking of Paignton and its town centre, we have Crossways.

The former shopping centre has been virtually empty and derelict for too long and has become a blot on the High Street landscape.

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There was a council cross-party motion agreed last September to take a 'twin' approach on Crossways.

One was to try and negotiate a deal with the landlord. The other was to prepare a Compulsory Purchase Order at the same time. The fact that negotiations are still on-going with the owner after such a long time might indicate that a deal appears unlikely, although it would be great to be proven wrong. The most likely seems to be the CPO and that will take time.

Swithin Long, the councillor in charge of regeneration and housing, couldn't be drawn but said: 'Conversations are being had with the landlord. The CPO is progressing with things like land searchers, legal things being drawn up and papers being served.'

A timetable of potential actions could see a notice served on the landlord in the next few weeks. A period would be allowed for objections. The go-ahead, or a public inquiry being called, would be the next step in September. The public hearing itself would not be held until the January or February of next year and a decision and a CPO confirmed (if it is permitted) would follow in April/May time.

Cllr Long says: 'The CPO is being prepared, but it is a legal process and it takes time. If the landlord objects potentially there could be a public inquiry.'

Part of the process is to draw up a planning application to show that any scheme proposed for the site is viable.

The planned 'mixed scheme' development includes 'extra care living' accommodation. 'It will be for people of all ages who might need some help to remain independent,' says Cllr Long. 'The apartments will have alarms etc if the residents need help.'

There will be retail at the front of the development as well as a café for both residents and members of the public. There will also a small amount of residential units at the back of the site.

The project will fall under the remit of TorVista, Torbay Council's new housing company, which is currently going through the process of being registered to provide affordable and social rented housing.

Cllr Long says: 'The company will bring the Crossways scheme forward. Other places will be done first.'

By that he means new affordable homes replacing the houses which have stood derelict at Tweenaway Cross in Paignton for many years which in itself has been a disgrace.

The council has been quick to move regarding the immediate future of the Riviera International Conference Centre on Torquay seafront. Leisure firm Parkwoood were about to sign the lease and spend lots of money on refurbishing the complex but then came Lockdown.

Cllr Long says: 'The deal could have fallen through and we could have been left with an empty building. We have taken the lease over as a holding measure. The plan is for Parkwood to take it forward once this madness is over.'

So, you see and thank goodness, big things are still going on behind the Coronavirus scenes.....