A £21.9million cash boost for Torquay could be just the start of a new beginning for Torbay

Torquay inner harbourTorquay inner harbour

It is hard, very hard, to look to the future with any confidence, difficult to see any glimpse of light at the end of that very dark tunnel. That’s what the pandemic does to you.

But it is not all doom and gloom as we keep saying through this publication. In fact, despite all these challenges, a new era dawns for Torbay.

We are quite understandably at the moment only focussed on the virus but there are some great things going on out there to give us that hope for the future.

The start, and it is a big start, is a huge vote of confidence in the English Riviera with the awarding of £21.9million from the government’s Town Deal initiative to breathe new life into Torquay and especially the town centre area.

Paignton is keeping its fingers crossed for another £19million or so as part of the government’s Future High Street Funding scheme and there are millions of pounds being invested in the Bay through the private sector, including the £32milllon Hilton Hotel redevelopment in Torquay’s Torwood Street and a new Premier Inn for part of the nearby Terrace car park as well as a massive £140million investment from the Fragrance Group and its building of two new hotels on Paignton seafront and two more on the sites of the former Palace and Corbyn Head hotels in Torquay.

Don’t forget our world-leading cluster of hi-tech companies, the growing success of the Epic Centre, the odd new business park or two and the Torbay Hospital rebuild scheme worth a mere £400million.

There has been much hard work and lobbying done behind the scenes to win the backing of central government, with the private and public sectors coming together to offer one voice under the Torbay Together partnership, councillors and council officers going the extra mile and TDA, the council’s regeneration company and especially their economic strategy guru Alan Denby who must know Whitehall like the back of his hand.

The Fragrance Group could see there was a sense of confidence in the resort’s future which persuaded them to invest.

Martin Rogers, their representative in the UK and who is based in the Bay, says work is progressing well on the new hotels on Paignton prom.

Asbestos has delayed the total demolition of the Palace but it should be complete in the New Year.

Work on building houses on the site of the hotel former tennis courts should begin next year as well.

“The residential site is clear,” said Martin.

He added: “With the Corbyn Head tenders for contractors are in.”

Ironically it was at the Corbyn Head where it all began and where James Koah, the billionaire boss of Fragrance, first fell in love with the Bay.

Martin remembers a meeting there with then mayor Gordon Oliver and TDA chief executive Steve Parrock.

Martin says: “It’s about confidence. It was about the confidence Steve Parrock and the mayor had in the future which rubbed off on Mr Koah and made him want to invest here.

“We had two people that were visionary and could look to the future of the Bay. Steve Parrock in particular has been unbelievably supportive.”

Don’t be surprised by the way if Fragrance aren’t linked to another high-profile hotel project elsewhere in the West Country in the not too distant future.

There is a development opportunity at the former Quality Hotel site overlooking Plymouth Sound which the local city council bought a few years ago.

A fresh attempt is being made to find a developer to build a hotel there after it emerged the original company behind the bid hadn’t raised the money.

Fragrance have made no secret of the fact that they are looking for another hotel opportunity in the West Country.

All Martin would say was: “We are definitely interested.”