Jim Parker: ‘A picture worth a thousand words’

What is the saying about a ‘picture is worth a thousand words’?

This photograph shows the rapid progress that is being made as a 165-bedroom hotel literally rises out of the ground on Paignton seafront.

It is one of four new hotels being built in the Bay by developers the Fragrance Group. This hotel and another next door, also rising quickly from its concrete foundations, will replace the old Park Hotel and former Lighthouse entertainment venue.

Fragrance is also building new hotels on the site of the former Corbyn Head and Palace hotels in Torquay.

Well-known community and business figure Frank Sobey commented: “Over recent years, it always made me raise an eyebrow counting the number of cranes whilst heading into central London on the train. Those evident signs of investment were so exciting. Seeing cranes on the Paignton skyline is very exciting indeed.”

Another observer added: “Fantastic to see a crane on the skyline.”

And former trader’s leader Matthew Clarke said simply but summed it up nicely with: “Two cranes!”

All this investment comes at a time when the English Riviera has been hit hard by the worst pandemic since World War Two.

Only this week a national report was spelling out how difficult things were with the lockdown blitzing the local economy, especially our tourism and hospitality sector.

There was talk of having to endure three winters and 30 per cent of our tourism businesses failing with massive job losses.

Don’t get me wrong, the waters ahead will still be stormy and the virus is bound to cause more damage.

It is estimated that 16,000 people in the Bay were on the government’s furlough scheme. Some will never return to the jobs they had.

But alongside that is hope for the future with investment in the resort at levels never seen before.

Besides the Fragrance Group investment, we have a whole host of other schemes going on, ranging from new Hilton and Premier Inn hotels to improvement schemes for our town centres, linked to £40 million government funding packages, and a new railway station and gateway development at Edginswell which has just been awarded £2 million grant in the latest funding support from Westminster.

Darren Cowell, deputy council leader and chairman of the Bay’s community partnerships, was born and bred in Torbay. The 55-year-old councillor says: “When you think about the hotel developments on the seafront and the Palace with the Fragrance Group, ambitious plans for Crossways with a planning application just submitted, the whole prospect of investment through the Future High Streets funding and £18 million and the Torquay Town Deal and £25 million, trying to address and support solutions age old problems like the Pavilion I cannot remember a time when so much was happening or is about to happen.

“A lot of these projects have been carried through the neighbourhood forum and town centre master plans. It was happening before, but Covid has put an increased urgency on getting things done. In Torbay developments have been slow to get going. There is a tendency to object to things.

“Now the whole process is being done differently. Communities have been involved in making these decisions. It gives a much more ‘can-do’ attitude.”

Torbay MP Kevin Foster welcomed the latest government funding for Edginswell under its Get Britain Building Again campaign and added: “Especially at this moment when many seaside resorts would give their right arm for the investment that is coming into the Bay.

“I think is a mixture of a wish to drive forward at a local level with the right policies and framework nationally with the government’s commitment to the area.”

It certainly is tough at the moment and it will get tougher. But that doom and gloom has to be balanced by what is happening right now and which can only give us hope for the future.

The picture says it all.