Royal Mail set to drop objection to Crossways redevelopment

Torbay MP Kevin Foster, left, with Conservative councillors Dave Thomas and Barbara Lewis at Crossways before the pandemic

Torbay MP Kevin Foster, left, with Conservative councillors Dave Thomas and Barbara Lewis at the Crossways shopping centre in Paignton before the pandemic - Credit: Submitted

Royal Mail is expected to drop its objection to the compulsory purchase of Crossways shopping centre in Paignton, removing one of the obstacles in the way of a multi-million pound redevelopment scheme.

The company has a delivery office next door and had raised concerns about the impact on its operation from the major construction project planned for the town centre complex.

But it is now expected to withdraw a formal objection to the legal process started by Torbay Council to take control of the property.

The development follows intervention by Torbay MP Kevin Foster who challenged Royal Mail over its stance which could slow the regeneration plans.

Mr Foster held a meeting with senior managers and said it appeared none of them had visited the site.

He said they had concerns that the redevelopment could impact the mail delivery operation, with issues such as access to Torquay Road and site safety.

But the MP said the points they raised appeared not well founded and he felt they could be easily resolved by the council.

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Mr Foster said: “I got the impression they had been coming under public pressure, and they were acutely aware they had got themselves on the wrong side of the argument.”

The council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration Swithin Long said Royal Mail managers had been given assurances in a meeting that their concerns would be addressed and he expected the objection would be withdrawn.

That would remove one obstacle to making progress with plans to demolish the ‘eyesore’ concrete centre and car park and build flats for the elderly instead.

The council has started the legal process for a compulsory purchase order, but is in talks with the owner Gaelic Investments in an attempt to secure a deal. Meanwhile, the owner has also submitted an objection to the order.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail supports the principle of regenerating the Crossways shopping centre for mixed uses.

“As our Paignton delivery office is so close to this site, we also want to ensure that any plans for redevelopment do not have an adverse impact on our ability to deliver the mail to local residents.

“We are working closely with Torbay Council to find a mutually beneficial solution.”

Crossways shopping centre in Paignton.

Crossways shopping centre in Paignton. - Credit: Ed Oldfield

A redevelopment scheme to build 89 sheltered and extra-care flats on the site was given planning permission in December 2020.

The concrete centre including a multi-storey car park between Hyde Road and Torquay Road is mostly empty, and has been the focus of redevelopment plans for several years.

The council voted in September 2019 to start the legal process for compulsory purchase while holding talks with the owner. If objections remain in place, a public inquiry is likely to be held, probably in the summer, with a decision expected around three months later.

The redevelopment proposals are for a five-floor block of 13 sheltered flats for over-55s and a seven-storey block of 76 extra-care flats, with commercial units at street level.

An artist's impression of the redeveloped Crossways site in Paignton

An artist's impression of the redeveloped Crossways site in Paignton. - Credit: Architects Design Group

Extra care housing is also known as assisted living, where residents have self-contained flats but with staff available to provide personal care and support.

Details of the proposals were revealed in July 2020 for initial consultation ahead of the planning application, which was approved by the council’s planning committee in December.

The scheme is being progressed alongside a package of regeneration proposals for Paignton town centre. It has an estimated cost of £22.5million and councillors have approved borrowing £11million.