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Oldway parking charges 'scrapped'

Torbay Council is set to drop plans for parking charges at Oldway Mansion in Paignton.

The start of consultation to introduce fees at the council-owned historic estate where parking is currently free sparked an outcry on social media.

The council’s ruling partnership of Independents and Liberal Democrats has now announced it intends to halt the scheme.

They said the plan had been started by the previous mayor-led council and was now being dropped following feedback from users.

The listed building was the private residence of American business tycoon Isaac Singer. 

Completed in 1875, it underwent work in the early 20th Century to model it in the style of the Palace of Versailles.

The mansion was closed to the public in 2013, although the gardens including tennis courts and a bowling green have remained open and are popular with visitors and dog walkers.

The council is planning to transfer management of the building and estate to a new community trust and a bid is being made to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a £9.85m grant towards a £17m restoration plan.

The move to halt the parking charges plan was revealed in a joint statement on Wednesday night from Independent councillor and deputy leader Darren Cowell, and Liberal Democrat cabinet member Swithin Long.

It said: "The plans for meters at Oldway were a legacy from the previous administration.

"It had previously been agreed to consult upon plans to install meters, but given the feedback from the Friends of Oldway on behalf of volunteers and also following meetings with the Bowling Clubs, the Cabinet have asked officers not to proceed with the plans for meters.

"Other issues have emerged during the consultation including possible alternative options for volunteer/bowling club member parking as well as the need to prevent parking on the main driveway.

"We are working hard with the Oldway Trust as well as all other groups involved and as a result of the process have invited the Bowling Clubs to join the Oldway Working Party.

"Given the emergence of the Trust, we feel it is better to focus on delivering a sustainable future for the Mansion and for the Trust to consider parking issues in the future.

"This administration is determined to engage with and listen to the community and that is why we are asking officers not to proceed with the proposals."

Parking in the grounds is currently free but the council published a notice outlining proposed charges in the Herald Express newspaper on Wednesday, November 20.

The fees ranged from £1.40 for an hour to £6.50 for six hours, £8 for 24 hours and £3 overnight.

One Facebook user commented: "Against this from the beginning. It won’t raise much money and will upset and inconvenience many people. Terrible decision."

The listed mansion was used as council offices and has been empty for six years. 

Plans to turn it into a luxury hotel fell through in 2016.

In the summer of 2018 councillors rejected a plan from Torbay’s elected mayor to start the process to sell it.

By Ed Oldfield, local democracy reporting service

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