One man's vision - but does he hit nail on head defining Bay's future?

Empty aviary marine site

Living Coasts - Credit: Submitted

Torbay is at the crossroads. Millions of pounds is being invested in the resort at the moment by both the private and public sector.

Torbay Council has successfully bid for more than £40million to regenerate the town centres in Torquay and Paignton under the government's Town Deal and Future High Street initiatives. It is hoped millions more will come from it Levelling Up fund with project in Brixham on top of the wish list.

The Fragrance Group with its £140million investment in building for new branded hotels in the resort is leading the investment and votes of conidence in the resort. But what do the residents think of their English  Riviera?

Here David Lewis, of Waterside Road, Broadsands, Paignton, gives his  verdict

He writes:

The Bay has suffered from significant underinvestment over many years. It is in urgent need of some intelligent TLC and significant investment. It has huge unrealised potential that could be unlocked.

Three hours from London, an hour away from the nearest airport and with decent transport links to the rest of the UK, Torbay has the potential to be a real jewel in crown of the South West. There needs to be a large investment in world class visitor attractions which are fit for the 21st century traveller.

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The potential of the Bay has already been spotted by some large, international investors

Some great examples of where investment in world class visitor attractions has worked very well elsewhere are the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, The St Ives Tate gallery and the Eden project in Cornwall.

When the Guggenheim, which had been a very controversial project, opened 20 years ago it completely transformed that city and it is now estimated to generate €400 million a year in revenues. At the time, Bilbao was scarred by terrorism and failing industry. The city decided to gamble on Frank Gehry's extraordinary design for the Guggenheim. Not only did it help to save Bilbao, it also showed the world the transformative power of art. 

The St Ives Tate Gallery also in Cornwall opened in 1980 and it is estimated to bring an extra 250,000 visitors a year to that town, generating £11 million pounds annually.

The Eden Project in Cornwall which opened in 2001 has created hundreds of local jobs, attracted 20 million visitors and generated in an estimated £2 billion in economic benefits for the local economy.

With imagination and organisation what happened in Bilboa and St Ives and with the Eden Project in Cornwall could happen in Torbay too.  The creation of some really iconic venues that could host brilliant events and display fabulous works of art would attract large numbers of visitors to spend more money in the Bay. Jobs, prosperity and increased opportunity would be generated.

'Build it and they will come" as someone once very wisely said. Having the 'right' sort of venues on the Bay would significantly broaden the profile of the typical visitor. They in turn will bring more of the high-end shopping, restaurants and associated businesses that the Bay really needs. 

The Bay urgently needs a really top-class venue for music and the performing arts: musical theatre, dance, festivals, opera and pop concerts etc.

There is a marvellous site – the former Living Coasts where a really iconic, world class art gallery & museum could be built.

Torbay is in urgent need of a new venue for the performing arts. The Princess Theatre is very dated and limited in what it can offer. It should be demolished, and a larger, more versatile, multi-venue facility built that could offer new spaces for concerts, theatre, opera and dance.

The new performing arts complex could be built where the Torquay pavilion is located overlooking the marina. With the right design it would be a magical place. 

If the Bay did become a major centre for the arts, it is not had to imagine that the creative industries which support them could be drawn here also. This could provide some very new opportunities for those of us who live in and around Torbay. 

There are some other really good sites around the Bay, like the Oldway mansion in Paignton but no agreed plan for how they can be best used.

Torbay is already blessed with some fantastic tourist attractions. There are also the many natural attractions of beach and sea, but the question is, are these enough for 21st century visitors?

Torbay also has a history of visiting famous people who lived here in many cases including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Agatha Christie, Flora Thompson, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sarah Burnhardt and many more. Yet, it despite the significance of these people in UK history, much more could be made of their place in Torbay history.

Developing some new and exciting venues should not require large amounts of private investment. A small amount of seed money at the outset would be required to get things moving.  There is plenty of public money available from different sources for the right projects. 

I think there are three good potential projects for an initial phase: an art gallery by the marina, a new venue for music and the performing arts where the Princess Theatre is located and a revamp of the Riviera International Centre in order to make Torbay a more attractive venue for hosting large conferences and events

What is needed is the right vision and plan and enough determined people with the necessary energy and passion to make things happen. With the right ideas, world leading iconic designs and enough investment, the Bay could become a model of how to regenerate and transform a rather dated Victorian seaside destination using some new ideas and different approaches. A stronger and more diverse local economy would be created to provide work and greater opportunities for future generations.

The Bay must look forwards rather than backwards if it is to transform its fortunes into the future.