Fight still on over controversial development, say campaigners
A £45MILLION redevelopment project for one of Torbay's most prime locations is back on track.
A new planning application to transform the former Hollicombe gas work site on the main seafront between Torquay and Paignton at Preston is being submitted after a 12-month delay.
Newton Abbot construction firm Midas Homes, now Linden Homes South West, is about to resubmit proposals for the controversial site after the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles ordered an Environmental Impact Assessment report.
Planning consent was originally granted by Torbay Council in April last year for the 100-year-old site.
Company bosses say the firm has done everything it was asked and they are now confident they have a strong case.
The original go-ahead was granted on condition that Linden Homes put a 'tent' over the contaminated site to prevent poisonous dust going into the air, especially considering the proximity of the nearby Preston Primary School.
But Mr Pickles then decided an environmental impact assessment was needed before a final decision could be made.
Linden Homes' regional managing director Bill Cawse said: "When we were told we couldn't go ahead, despite getting approval from Torbay, we were surprised to say the least.
"Torbay Council officers were taken aback, too, as they had received clear guidance from their legal team everything that needed to be produced had been."
Neighbouring residents have been opposed to the proposals as they fear a clean up of the toxic site could spark health risks.
Dr Andrew Robinson, an environmental health expert and resident, said the fight was still on against the development.
Mr Cawse said Linden Homes had spent the last year nailing down exactly what the Department of Communities and Local Government would like to see in the assessment and then preparing a document that responds to what is required.
Linden Homes said the assessment confirmed everything that they had submitted before and reinforced the argument that their proposals were safe and appropriate.
The proposed scheme remains the same as previously approved and would comprise 185 new homes, including a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, 44 of which will be affordable.
It is understood Torbay Council could benefit from a £1.5million in New Homes Bonus cash from the project.
Linden Homes also intends to provide a new park, offering public access for the first time in more than 100 years down to Torbay Road and across the pedestrian crossing on to the beach.
Opposition to the plans, which culminated in objectors writing to Mr Pickles, has centred around the remediation work that will be needed to turn what is a contaminated old gas storage depot into a place for people to live.
Linden has said potentially harmful toxins needed to be taken away and disposed of while others would be dealt with on site.
Mr Cawse said his team had done everything possible to show that the plans are completely safe.
He said: "There comes a point when you have to say enough is enough — and judging from the response we get, so do many residents."
Dr Robinson said the planning application would have to be looked at with fresh eyes in view of the EIA report.
He said: "The battle is not lost yet. We're still fighting.
"All that's happening right now is a new application is being submitted.
"I hope Torbay Council will listen to sense. We will be campaigning until the end. It is certainly not over."