It's not over yet for Brixham bid - but we have to be united

Torbay Weekly

The hat-trick to top all hat-tricks (not, of course, including Geoff Hurst’s famous triple back in 66) failed to materialise.

Feelings of disappointment reverberated around the Town Hall as Torbay Council’s bid for a £20 million boost under the government’s Levelling Up Fund was unsuccessful.

We were all keeping fingers crossed that the application would follow in the successful footsteps of recent government funding for the Bay, namely £22 million for regeneration projects in Torquay from the Town Deal fund and another £13 million for Paignton from the Future High Streets fund. But there was no early Christmas present from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

However, for those who ‘think it’s all over’ (the famous words of commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme in that glorious World Cup triumph over the Germans), they are mistaken. A new bid is already being worked on!

The £20 million would have been spent on improving Brixham’s Fish Quay and market and creating a new electronics and photonics production park at Paignton.

106 bids from councils across the UK were awarded a combined total of £1.7 billion. Another £3.1 billion will be awarded at a future date.

And that is where Brixham MP Anthony Mangnall comes in.

He says: “I am disappointed that we were not in the first tranche but there is still £3billion out of £4billion to bid for in the future.”

He revealed he has already met with Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Mr Mangnall said: “I have been called in by Michael Gove to see how we can improve the bid. We are going to re-submit. It will probably be in March, 2022.”

He has also written to Nadine Dorris, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, just to emphasise how important the photonics sector and hi-tech industry is to the Bay.

Council leader Steve Darling said: “We are disappointed. Our once-in-a-generation plan to enhance and extend Brixham Fish Quay was set to lead to 150 year-round jobs and was could have generated more than £11 million a year for Brixham’s economy.”

But Mr Mangnall said: “The news didn’t represent the end of the line for the Brixham bid.

“What I’ve had back from ministers is a reassurance that the bid is actually very good [but] it needs to be improved upon in some areas.”

He added: “Everyone is of the mind that Brixham is a great project that we want to see developed and we have got to push on with that.  My intention now is to double down and make sure we resubmit an improved bid and I’ll be working with local groups to do so and we’ll go for the money that is remaining.

“It’s by no means a fait accompli."

Torbay Council’s bid aimed to throwing a rope to Brixham’s fishing industry, which has been wrestling with the double impacts of the pandemic and Brexit. Part of the idea was to reclaim land in order to extend Brixham harbour and fish market, allowing up to five extra fishing vessels to offload simultaneously. There were also plans for two new auction halls.

The application also included a bid to create the new production centre for an electronics and photonics company. It was hoped this would have led to the creation of 175 new jobs and an £18 million annual boost to the economy.

Not everybody was in favour of the fish market plans, especially Brixham Yacht Club.

Concerns were expressed about a loss of parking spaces, turning Oxen Cove car park into a ‘mini-industrial estate’, and the loss of more boat moorings.

Did Mr Mangnall think the opposition have anything to do with the bid failing?

He said: “I hope not. I don't think it is right to point fingers at different groups.

"The yacht club were right to voice their concerns. That is part of the process.

"It is important that we work with different parts of the community to get it right.

"The key is that we work with local partners to shape the project in the way that it will benefit everybody."

Mr Magnall is spot on. Any new bid has to have the backing of all the community – or as near to.

Otherwise, 'they think it’s all over, it is now’ may sadly come true