Jim Parker: As we move into a new golden era, my plea is 'Please don't forget the Hele villages of this world'
- Credit: Torbay Council
I have much lamented the decline of my beloved Hele Village for more years than I care to remember.
I spent my childhood and younger life in the village and will be for ever proud of my council estate roots.
But in those days the village was alive. It was vibrant. It had a heart.
Shops like florists, hardware, fruit and veg, newsagents, bookies, chip shops and bakers as well as the local Royal Standard pub, 'Buff' club and Conservative club once lined the main village street that is Hele Road.
Only the 'Con' club remains and hardly any of the shops. Don't get me wrong, lots of people do lots of good things in the battle to keep that community spirit alive.
But the village looked a sorrier state than usual the other day with bags and bins of rubbish overflowing on to the pavement, edging a road which has now become a main road for traffic, including the endless flow of lorries, doing nothing to help local pollution levels and the residents who live there - including my sister.
Former mayor Nick Bye touched on this topic the other day when he was expressing his concern about 'inequality' in Torquay.
He said in part of the town mansions were being 'gold-plated' while nearby people were in poverty and decline.
Cllr Bye said: “If there was a town of inequality, Torquay is it."
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His comments came as Torbay Council’s overview and scrutiny board was given an update on the progress of Government-backed regeneration plans for Torquay and Paignton worth an estimated £180million to the local economy.
The Torquay Town Deal has been allocated £22million funding for eight major projects - a lot of them focussed on the harbour area of the town centre (the clue is in the funding title) including improving public spaces and restoring the disused Pavilion.
Three 'accelerator projects have also carried out after to improve Upton Park, Princess Gardens and lighting on the seafront.
In Paignton, a series of seven regeneration projects have been awarded a total of £13.4million from the Future High Streets Fund.
Cllr Bye said he was concerned there was apparently no population growth or significant housebuilding in Torquay, compared to Paignton and Brixham which had more positive prospects.
The Wellswood councillor claimed: "Mansions are being gold-plated in some parts of my ward and the wealth is extraordinary, and then not very far away the poverty and the decay and the decline is so very obvious.”
Cabinet member for economic regeneration Swithin Long said the administration was focussed on increasing affordable housing and ensuring economic development projects improved education and skills.
Alan Denby, director of economic strategy at TDA, said the Town Deal was one part of the puzzle.
He said there were opportunities to develop tourism and the high-tech electronics industry, and to work with Torbay Hospital on a higher value health and social care sector.
There was a need for the public and private sectors to work together to retain growing businesses, attract new enterprises and improve skills.
Deputy leader Darren Cowell said there was no 'silver bullet' solution to inequality and deprivation.
It needed a partnership approach with a network of measures on issues such as health and housing.
The board backed a proposal from Cllr Andrew Barrand to ask the council’s Cabinet to require developers and contractors to use local labour where possible and offer apprenticeships and training.
Councillors also backed a proposal from Cllr Bye for the Cabinet to explore opportunities for economic growth in Torquay in the business plans for the Torquay Town Deal.
To be fair, the Independent/Lib Dem coalition running the council has made tackling poverty one of their top priorities as well as providing more social and affordable housing and working at grass roots level.
Torbay is in a brilliant place at present. My heartfelt plea as we move forward is: 'Don't forget the likes of Hele Village'