Looking back at the highs and lows of 2021 in Torbay

Torbay Weekly

2021 had it’s highs and lows.

It’s human nature to reflect on the past at this time of year, I want to use this column to focus on last year.

We started 2021 in a strict lockdown, weary after months of restrictions – yet our community and voluntary partners continued to be there for Torbay’s residents.

2020 was the year that we all came together to support each other and our communities, 2021 was the year we built on the learning and community cohesion of those partnerships.

As a political partnership between the Independents and Lib Dems, which runs the council, we want to support people and help develop our sense of community spirit in Torbay.

We launched our Community Investment Fund (CIF) and awarded nine local projects with funding, each selected because they helped support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and empowered individuals.

The Torbay Community Helpline has been instrumental in providing vital support across the Bay.

The adult social care triage service has been incredible in ensuring people get the right support from within the community - reducing referrals to statutory services by 20 per cent.

This has, only last week, been nationally recognised and has been shared as best practice.

The past couple of years has presented even more challenges for some of our most vulnerable families.

Through a range of initiatives such as the Healthy Holidays food and activity programme, the provision of food vouchers, offering free bus travel over the summer and supporting our local foster carers, we’ve helped to not only relieve some of that financial burden on families, but we’ve been able to provide them with opportunities and experiences to help their youngsters realise their full potential.

The summer of 2021 was one of the busiest on record for Torbay, it was fantastic to see the Bay thronged with people.

We invested  hundreds of thousands of pounds in Torbay’s seafronts and town centres to help with our reopening, providing extra bins, staff, and toilets to allow us to cope with the extra demand.

This investment also saw Paignton and Torquay seafronts benefit from state-of-the-art festoon lighting after years of neglect.

We’re also expecting high numbers of visitors to return this summer - giving our recovering local economy a much-needed boost - particularly the hospitality sector, which continues to suffer as a result of the pandemic.

We started on our once-in-a-generation regeneration programme, completing three accelerated projects at Upton Park, Princess Gardens and Royal Terrace Gardens in Torquay.

2022 will see more regeneration projects starting to take shape across the whole of the Bay.

Much-needed new homes are already under construction on the Totnes Road with further homes set to come out of the ground, most notably in Paignton town centre and in Brixham through our own housing development company TorVista.

Responding to our climate emergency started to gain some traction in 2021.

We held our first climate conference, formed the Torbay Climate Partnership, planted almost 300 new trees, gave away 300 trees, and launched a tree warden scheme.

Torbay was awash with colour in the summer with urban flower meadows, after local community groups helped plant pollinator patches to provide nectar-rich flowers for bees  and other insects - winning our communities in Torbay an award at the South West in Bloom awards.

To encourage more people to become active, we’ve worked in partnership with Sport Torbay under the leadership of Jim Parker and invested £150,000 in local sports.

Through the provision of new grant schemes, we’ve allowed sports clubs to attract new people, improve facilities and give aspiring young athletes the opportunity to further grow and develop their sporting talent.

All of this has been achieved, despite us receiving £96 million less this year in central Government funding than we did 10 years ago.