Jim Parker - new investment isn't just about more money in the bank

Torbay Weekly

It was a privilege – and a bit scary – to stand before business leaders and talk campaigns the other day.

But it was a great opportunity to let members of the Torbay Business Forum know about the new Torbay Story initiative and our Building a Greater Torbay campaign.

The Torbay Story, and a new leadership and engagement structure that goes with it, derives from the Torbay Together partnership, a strategic task force I was lucky enough to chair and whose main aim was to unite the public, private and community sectors to give the Bay one voice when seeking a more prosperous and healthier future

The Torbay Story is a new way of doing just that but this time it attempts to ‘sell' the Bay using a narrative, stories and headlines about what the resort and its three towns have to offer, especially to the ‘outside’ world – more on that in next week’s paper.

The BGT campaign kind of encapsulates all that good work and successes of Torbay Together – look at the millions now being invested in the Bay – as well as promoting and highlighting all the fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities we now have.

But I keep emphasising that a more prosperous future isn’t just about regeneration, new businesses, new jobs and more money in the bank.

It is also about making sure that the community is on board and that new wealth also benefits our vulnerable residents and the people living in some of our more deprived areas to give them – especially our younger generation – hope for the future.

It may be reaching for Utopia, but if we do that perhaps we may be able to avoid sad stories like Upton Bowling Club?

Ironically, hundreds of thousands of pounds from a government Town Deal funding pot – has been spent on making Upton Park a better place.

But that has not deterred vandals – many of them youngsters - drugs addicts and drunks causing anti-social behaviour problems for the bowlers.

So much so that, sadly, the club has decided to call it a day after 120 years and hand its lease back to Torbay Council. It must be added that dwindling numbers haven’t helped their cause either.

Chairman-for-the-last-12-years Fred King says: “Before Christmas we decided, after much deliberation, to close the club.

“The primary reasons being that our clubhouse and bowling green have been the subject of increasing incidents of vandalism.

“The latest of these attacks has left the safety lighting destroyed on the veranda and there is evidence of an attempt to set fire to the pavilion, which is of a wooden structure together win a burglary of our changing rooms. Our Greensman has left the club because of the abuse he receives and damage done to the green.

“We have over the past year explained our case. No help has been given despite the huge investment that has been made to the park for other projects. Players have left over the last few years because of the damage and security situation thereby leaving the club with too few members to compete in competitions during summer months.

“We consulted our remaining members regarding the future of our club and they supported the closure.

“We have informed the council of our intentions, by letter to close the club. These letters inform the council of our closure at the end of March.

“We will be sad to leave Upton Park which holds so much history and has provided a place for social activities both in and out of the bowling season. Most of our members have made arrangements to sign for other clubs. We are sad but we were left with no choice.”

There is no way I am condoning acts of vandalism and anti-social behaviour and, where necessary, perpetrators should face the full force of the law.

But wouldn’t it be great if any future success hopefully coming our way could be used to get these people off the streets and into more meaningful lives and even, dare I say it, into sports clubs"!

Or is that just wishful thinking....