Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Princess Gardens and Rising Costs of Repairs

Well I did my civic duty this evening and went along the a public meeting at the Rivera Centre. It's a good 20 min walk away so I got two thirds of my daily exercise in at the same time. The meeting was about the repairs to and development of the Princess Gardens down on the Sea Front. Learnt some interesting facts at the meeting. One was the fact that most of the Gardens are situated on land reclaimed from the sea back at the end of the 19th century and the sea wants it back. Part of the area has been fenced off for several years as it is falling apart and in danger of ending up in the Bay. Next, the repairs to the sea front, the gardens and the Pavilion will cost, and this is a rough estimate, £10million. Torquay has other outstanding fairly urgent repairs in the pipe line of £30million and just doesn't have that kind of money. So the choice is do we, the council tax payers face an increase of 1.5% per year for the next 20 years which for me would work out at £15 per year or do we go begging to Central Government ( not much point, we have a Lib Dem MP down here) or do we sell of what assets we have (not enough assets left) or do we form a partnership with a developer. The developer would provide some of the money for the repairs and in return he/they would build a hotel and other attractions on the site. The developers that are interested, Nicolas James Group, sent a Mr Nick Roche to explain the outline of what they would like to do. First he stated that the Princess Gardens would remain untouched and the pavilion would be repaired as would the crumbling pier. All good news. Even the fact that the Theatre might not make it through the exercise wasn't greeted with too much dismay.

The mood of the meeting was leaning towards optimistic. Then the "Ah yes but......" moment. It turned out that they, the developers would be quite happy to rip the car park out, many cheers there, and build the proposed hotel. But they would have to have a bit more before they were prepared to pump millions into the Bay. Some development would take place on the strip of land between the gardens and the sea front. This would effectively block the view from the gardens of the sea. The gardens on their own without their sea view become a bit mundane and not worth the effort of getting there.

After that the mood switched to forgetting the developer and either putting up council tax by 1.5% or buying Euro lottery tickets and hoping to win millions.

Democracy is wonderful.

An other meeting expected in 8 weeks time. Hopefully the sea front will still be there then.

The Princess Garden on Remembrance Sunday. The fountain, which was paid for by a resident is in the centre with the war memorial behind and the Princess Theatre in the distance. The sea is to the left and Rock Walk to the right.

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