Jim Parker: Seafront illuminations are shining a light on bright future of our English Riviera

Torbay Weekly

There were only a handful of people there for the long-awaited switch-on of the Paignton seafront lights – but it was quite a significant moment.

Mayor Terry Manning reflected on it as pushed the button, mentioning the two Fragrance Group hotels now quickly talking shape on the promenade just across the road.

It was as if the illuminations were shining a light on a brighter for the town.

Beyond the seafront plans are progressing for the regeneration of the town centre with £13million worth of government investment through the Future High Streets fund.

Major improvements are planned for the Victoria Square, Station Square and Torbay Road areas. Then we have Crossways and a major breakthrough in a saga which has dragged on for far too long.

Torbay Council has moved one step closer to achieving its regeneration ambition for the derelict shopping precinct.

Gaelic Investments, who purchased the site in 2009, has agreed in principle the council’s terms under a compulsory purchase order.

Redevelopment plans, for which planning was granted in February 2021, include around 90 extra care and sheltered housing units with commercial space retained on the ground floor for businesses.    
Fetching out the sledge-hammers may be a little premature as there is one final hurdle yet to overcome.

A public Inquiry on the CPO will be held virtually later this month which will address the remaining objection to the purchase from the Royal Mail.

Another part of that big future is the refurbishment of the Torbay Picture House. And the doors have re-opened at Oldway Mansion.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that a similar lights switch-on took place across the Bay in Torquay. There we have a similar brighter future in store.

Another £22 million wad of government cash, under its Town Deal initiative, will be spent on regenerating the town centre. The area around The Strand is also being improved. The Pavilion’s future should a lot clearer and what about the derelict Living Coasts site?

There is also the small matter of a new rail station at Edginswell and a new £250milllion Torbay Hospital complex.

Deputy council leader Darren Cowell sums it up well: “We are playing a lot of catch up and we have always had the odd project here and there, but Torbay is on the move.”

He gives an update on some of the game-changing projects.

The future of Living Coasts is still in hands of its ‘owners' the Wild Planet Trust – but there should be some movement before end of year or by the spring of next year.

With the Pavilion, ‘positive conversations’ have been held with leaseholders MDL. A first major phase will be to secure the building. Scaffolding and a big tent will emerge as work is carried out to stop more water damage and further general deterioration.

You can eventually expect to see a mixed use for the site with a refurbishment of the Pavilion and some residential development as well as an ‘al fresco dining experience’.

At Oldway a £170,000 bid is being made to the lottery’s heritage resilience fund to pay for a project manager to support volunteers and prepare a business case for a longer-term project.

I note that our MP emerged unscathed in the Prime Minister's recent shake-up. Kevin Foster remains as a minister in the Home Office after confirmation at the weekend.

Whether the coat be blue, red, yellow, white or pink and purple, having your MP actually serving the government can only be a good thing for the Bay. Mr Foster will only say: "It has its advantages."

He will have a played a key role in the government backing the Bay with the current huge investment.

He says: “We just need to get some of the projects on site so people can see them happening.”

Absolutely - #nowisthetime2

I don’t mean to miss to Brixham here, by the way. It could be in with a shout of landing £20 million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund. Besides a potential new fish market scheme, the money would also pay for a photonics business park at Paignton to cater for another huge success in the Bay – its hi-tech sector. Perhaps we need some new lights for Brixham..