Kevin Dixon, local historian and board member of Torbay Culture, and Martin Thomas, executive director of Torbay Culture, take a look at the Torbay Heritage Strategy consultation. The final date for feedback is Sunday, August 23

Oldway Mansion and Rotunda, PaigntonOldway Mansion and Rotunda, Paignton

Torbay residents have been helping to inform and design Torbay Council’s review of its heritage.

At the beginning of the review, 745 comments were received - a high response that illustrates how much the historic buildings and landscape mean to residents.

Torbay is internationally recognised as the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark, and our inshore coastline is a Marine Conservation Zone.

Torbay is home to part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), multiple Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), listed buildings, conservation areas, scheduled Ancient Monuments, historic parks and gardens, historic sailing vessels and important museum and archive collections, including the nationally designated collection at Torquay Museum.

Vigilance historic sailing ship, BrixhamVigilance historic sailing ship, Brixham

Torbay has a 10-year cultural strategy - ‘Enjoy, Talk, Do, Be’ a cultural strategy for Torbay and its communities 2014-24 - which has successfully enabled projects to take place.

These include the Torbay Care Charter launched in 2018; the culture health and wellbeing programme which tested new ways of artists working with patients from 2016 to 2020; and the hugely popular ‘Wavelength’ celebration of sound and light in 2019.

The new heritage strategy will sit alongside this wider cultural strategy ‘Enjoy, Talk, Do, Be’. That strategy, formally adopted in 2015, provides the framework for culture in the Bay, but there are specific heritage issues which we all know have affected the bay for many years.

This review of the heritage strategy has considered how to prioritise heritage, including assets currently on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.

Because there are many competing priorities for limited resources, we realise that having this set out clearly is important if we want to make progress.

Among the aims of the heritage strategy review we hope to:

• change the relationship with external funders and stakeholders to benefit residents and the heritage of Torbay

• ensure heritage is better connected to people - for example, starting with an open process at the beginning which engaged the public. This matters for residents and also for the visitor economy

• build confidence and trust, directly addressing perceptions from important partners like Historic England and others. We want to see Torbay - as a council and a location - as a place which is takes heritage seriously, and recognised as doing so.

Following an open tender, the heritage review was conducted by lead consultant Katherine Findlay at Heritage Arts and People, on behalf of Torbay Council, with advice and support from council officers, Torbay Culture and others.

Now the draft of the strategy is open for public consultation at www.torbay.gov.uk/council/consultations

The new heritage strategy is aligned with local plans, including responsible tourism, economic development and climate change; and the ambition to build on the recent UNESCO re-validation.

Heritage is not only about looking to the past, preserving and conserving. It is about the people and the places of today.

This heritage review is the start of a new way of doing things, and can provide a firm foundation on which to build.

This new strategy provides a pathway for Torbay’s fascinating and significant heritage.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in profound challenges for all of us. But we know that holding true to a good vision can improve the quality of life for people in the bay. Heritage has a major role to play in that.