'Incredible' £14M Devon seafront transformation to go ahead

Paignton's long-awaited seafront transformation has been given the go-ahead. Torbay Council planning committee was told the chance to revamp the Paignton and Preston seafronts was a 'generational opportunity'.

They unanimously backed an ambitious £14 million scheme to give the two areas a complete overhaul as part of a new sea defence project.

It will be the biggest building scheme in Paignton for decades.

The planning committee was only able to meet after being granted special powers to do so. At a chaotic meeting last week, the full council failed to agree on giving delegated powers to officers, effectively leaving the authority unable to function normally.

The main aim of the project discussed by the planners is to protect low-lying parts of Paignton and Preston from the effects of rising sea levels. Some areas of the town are already prone to flooding in storms, but a video accompanying the planning application showed huge areas of the town centre at risk as sea levels rise.

But in addition to the sea defences, the new scheme will bring a new upper promenade with seating terraces and greenery for Paignton. Shelters will be relocated as will kiosks and cafes. Vehicles will be able to access the seafront along the existing pier road and through a new entrance on the south green. There will be no through-traffic along the prom, with the central area closed to vehicles.

At Preston, shelters and kiosks will be protected and there will be new seating.

This is the second version of a sea defence scheme to be put forward. A previous proposal for a more simple concrete barrier was shelved after objectors said it would look like the Berlin Wall.

Even the new scheme has attracted some objections, and pressure group Action For Paignton says even its specially-designed sea walls may not be high enough to cope with predicted rises in sea levels in decades to come.

Cllr Adam Billings (Con, Churston with Galmpton) said: "All the evidence indicates that without this scheme there will be a high likelihood of flooding in large sections of Paignton in the future. There is a very clear need for a scheme like this.

"And what we've got here is something that seeks to enhance the space and create a sea defence in a way that doesn't obviously look like a sea defence."

And Cllr Mike Fox (Lib Dem, Barton with Watcombe) added: "It's an incredible scheme."