Jim Parker: Great opportunities waiting for us - on our own doorstep

Living Coasts

Living Coasts - Credit: Archant

Hopefully you may have guessed by now that the main theme of the Torbay Weekly is ‘Naturally Inspiring’ bringing you human interest stories about inspiring people doing inspiring things in our beautiful and inspiring Bay.

I had the privilege to share a laptop screen with two such people the other day at the Torbay Business Forum Breakfast Bytes Christmas special (chairman Steve Reynolds looked particularly fetching in his elf outfit but we won’t go there).

Katie Cavanna and Sean White were among the guests - the others were just as good and inspiring by the way!

Katie will be well-known as the lady behind Re4orm Torbay, a marvellous Community Interest Company who engage with and look after some of our most needy, vulnerable and isolated residents. At the moment they are in the middle of converting a former UB40 tour bus into a mobile community centre.

Katie is also a popular fellow Torbay Weekly columnist. Her copy is always late but we won’t go there either!

Sean is behind the Wesup business based at Torquay marina. It is more than just a paddle board centre. It is a club with a coffee house and restaurant. It is quickly becoming one of the ‘in’ places to go these days as the water sport becomes more and more popular. There are similar ventures in Falmouth and Southampton.

Sean just loves the natural environment of the Bay and showed how a couple of sites could be transformed into sensational water sports centres - places like Beacon Cove and Peak Cove near the Imperial Hotel.

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And then there was the former Living Coasts site which has remained closed since Paignton Zoo owners the Wild Planet Trust were forced to pull the plug on the business at the start of the pandemic.

Forum chairman Reynolds was also quick to emphasise the potential of the site. Council leader Steve Darling was also on the ‘show’ and is planning a coffee with Sean...

Cllr Darling says there may be some movement on Living Coasts but only int the short term. The council own the site and lease it to the trust.

He adds: “I understand the Trust may have a potential tenant. It is not a long- term solution. There are talks going on with a sub- tenant who would be willing to run it for a period of time.”

Cllr Darling is a keen kayaker so doesn’t need reminding just how much the Bay’s natural environment and waters have to offer.

He refers to Fistral beach in Newquay, a world-renowned paradise for water sports, shops and restaurants.

Cllr Darling says: “That is what we need to be aspiring to. Sometimes when I have been packing up after kayaking at Oddicombe people have approached me and asked where they can hire equipment. We need to be serious in how we engage with these people.”

He and fellow councillor Swithin Long visited Reach Outdoors who have plans to develop their water-based business over at Goodrington.

Cllr Darling said: “They have an awful lot of people who come from Holland and Germany.”

The council is looking to redevelop two horrible toilet blocks at Corbyn Head in Torquay and on Preston seafront. Could they be included in that new water sports future which would certainly boost tourism as well as improve an all-round local offer? I gather there has been lots of interest in the sites.

Cllr Darling emphasises: “There has been some interest. What we want to do as a partnership is to make sure that anything which may happen there is respectful to the area and sympathetic with the sites.”He adds: “We have had a review of all that is coming down the line as far as capital projects are concerned. We were pleasantly embarrassed by the opportunities that we have. We have an awful lot of projects going on in Torbay.”

The challenge, of course, is delivering them. But Cllr Darling still plans a coffee or even a paddle with Sean.