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Councillors to challenge regeneration loan decision

Opposition councillors are to challenge a decision by cash-strapped Torbay Council to abandon plans to borrow more than £1m to regenerate part of Paignton town centre.

The Liberal Democrat group has ‘called in’ the decision by the Conservative administration earlier this month to scrap plans to borrow £1.172m from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) to improve the Station Square area of Paignton.

A motion by the opposition group challenging the decision is set to be debated at a special meeting of the council’s overview and Scrutiny committee tomorrow (26 September).

‘I was delighted earlier this year when the plans to breathe life back into Paignton town centre by investing in it were agreed,’ said Liberal Democrats deputy leader, Cllr Christine Carter.

‘It is odd that our Conservative council is happy to invest millions of pounds elsewhere in the country but is stopping investment in our own town.

‘I am looking forward to holding our Conservative elected mayor to account on this matter,’ added Cllr Carter.

Figures published by the Liberal Democrats claim that there had only been £12 spent per head of population on regeneration projects in Paignton over the last nine years, compared to £161 in Torquay and £1,201 per head in Brixham.

Fellow Paignton Liberal Democrat councillor, Ian Doggett, said: ‘Over many years Paignton has been the poor relation of our three towns.

‘There have been vast investments in Torquay and Brixham, but Paignton always seems to miss out. To have the hope of this investment now withdrawn by the Conservative elected mayor is shameful.’

In February, councillors unanimously approved the loan plans, but since that discussion was taken, the council’s financial position has deteriorated.

A report that went before councillors earlier this month stated ‘it would not be prudent for the council to invest in this scheme at this time’.

In addition, Torbay Council announced an ‘immediate moratorium’ on all non-urgent expenditure in August.

Responding to the Liberal Democrat comments, Torbay’s directly-elected mayor, Gordon Oliver, said: ‘The figures provided by the Liberal Democrats are not a true reflection of what has been spent in each town. I therefore do not agree that Paignton has been a poor relation.”

Mr Oliver said £26.55m had been spent in Paignton, plus an additional £25m investment for Graphics, EPIC and Claylands commercial developments.

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