Upstairs Downstairs fears over plans to turn Torquay office block into flats
PLANS have been unveiled to turn one of Torquay's best known council office blocks into flats.
An extra two floors are planned to convert Roebuck House into a seven-storey housing block in Abbey Road.
But residents are campaigning for the corner site to be kept in commercial use, possibly with a much-needed community centre on the ground floor.
The proposal is for 33 residential units, 10 of which will be affordable housing.
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The existing single-glazed windows would be replaced with double glazing and the brick facade would be clad to improve the appearance.
The former Torquay JobCentre building was the site of an infamous shooting in the 1970s, when gunman Michael Brown shot dead three JobCentre staff before turning the gun on himself.
Now the leaseholders are preparing a planning application and the architects and planning consultant held a public consultation at St Mary Magdalene Church to display the plans.
London-based Liz Moran of Darling Associates said her design for the seven-storey property would modernise its layered-floor appearance and dramatically improve the interior of the building.
"We are here to see what members of the public think of the design and consider any suggestions they have," she said.
Local councillor Darren Cowell said: "It's a horrible building on an awkward site and it needs a complete refurb.
"But the community would rather see it used as a mix of commercial and a community centre.
"We have had interest in the past about siting a call centre in Torbay, but there were no suitable premises. This would be the ideal place.
"The community has expressed concerns about flats.
"The design is for affordable housing on the ground floor, with its own entrance. It's like Upstairs Downstairs.
"The fear is that it could end up being a haven for more anti-social behaviour.
"I think the developers have been badly advised.
"Because of the reputation that the Warren Road and Melville Street area has, property prices are half what they should be."
The building is owned by London-based Welbeck Land and is currently home to Torbay Council's planning department.
Torbay Council staff will have vacated the building by March next year.
Ed Heynes, planning consultant, said the main challenge was to establish the need for a change of use for the site and persuade people about changes to the visual impact of the scheme.
Steve Parrock, chief executive of Torbay Development Agency, said staff were moving to various locations including revamped space below Torquay Library.