Jim Parker: It’s not all doom and gloom out there

The Bay Photonics team at the EPIC Centre in Paignton

The Bay Photonics team at the EPIC Centre in Paignton - Credit: Archant

Jim Parker: Amid all the doom and gloom out there is some good news

Amid all the uncertainty and anxiety at the moment, it was good to report on a bit of normality last week – and what is a huge boost for the English Riviera and South Devon at that.

There must have been doubts in some people's minds about the huge investment in the Bay from the Fragrance Group.

Not exactly the best time to build a new hotel some may have pondered – well Fragrance have plans for four as part of their £140 million regeneration programme.

The current crisis has caused some delays to schedules but nothing major so the world-wide regeneration company, headed by Singapore-based billionaire Mr 'James', is forging ahead with a new five-star hotel and resort spa for the former Palace Hotel in Torquay - that would well and truly put Torbay on the map – and new branded hotels at the site of the old Park hotel and Lighthouse entertainment venue next door on Paignton seafront and the former Corbyn Head overlooking the waterfront in Torquay.

They may not stop there either. Martin Rogers, their man in the UK, has revealed how they are 'looking for other opportunities' although it doesn't appear to be locally. Just on Mr Rogers. He has a lot to do with Mr James deciding to spend some of his vast fortunes here.

Mr Rogers, who has spent almost 50 years working in the hotel, hospitality and leisure industry, is a Torbay gent through and through (I think we may have even stumbled across each other on the cricket field in a Barton versus Paignton local derby or two) and is passionate about the place and its people. He would have been hugely influential in any decision-making process.

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The developments are a massive vote of confidence in the Bay and couldn't have been timed better as the tourism sector tries to get up off the canvas after being delivered a knockout blow by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Rogers can see a bright future for the Riviera with 'staycation' king as more and more people opt for the safety of a UK and Torbay holiday rather than venturing abroad.

There were also two other snippets of great news from the world of local business to bring further cheer.

One was an update on the new Claylands manufacturing facility in Paignton where the next phase of development has just started. The facility will be home to multi-national manufacturing company Casting Support Systems. The latest phases include ongoing earth works and the preparation for highway works.

Swithin Long, Torbay Council Cabinet member for economic regeneration, tourism and housing, said: 'TDA and Midas are working hard to ensure any impact from the global pandemic on this project is minimised as much as possible. It is great to see this project reach this important phase.'

Meanwhile, not that far away, there was further encouraging news at the Electronics and Photonics Innovation Centre where Bay Photonics have relocated their entire operation.

Since its launch in 2007, Bay Photonics, who were formerly Alpha Contract Engineering, has expanded in in size and technical capability. They spent five years based in the University of Plymouth Brixham Laboratory but the move into the £8million EPIC complex facility will increase its capability and give it access to an in-house classified cleanroom and over £1.5million worth of prototyping equipment.

Managing director Glenn George said: 'The move to EPIC will provide us with the opportunity to attract new clients and enter new markets.

'We are sad to leave our facility in Brixham, but EPIC was very supportive in helping us make the move. Bay Photonics is at a critical stage of its history and has plans to expand further in the coming years.'

Yep, we all know it's tough out there in so many ways - but it's not all doom and gloom.