Jim Parker: We need a Now is the Time mark 2
A couple of years ago I had a bee in my bonnet. Torbay was such a great place to live and work and we all take it for granted. We were also very bad at saying how good it was and how good we were.
It was a time of fragmentation and the vocal minority leading the way – or in some cases blocking the way – ahead of the silent majority. There was a lot of talking and not much walking and when there was it was two stepts forward and three steps back.
Looking at the bigger picture was rarely high on the agenda if at all. But most frustrating was the fact that some great things were going on despite all this. The trouble was we weren’t celebrating and shouting from the roof tops about them we were just letting out a whimper.
Now is the Time was launched, a campaign to unite people from all walks of life, from across the public, private, voluntary and community sectors to unite as one with one, united voice to show the outside world that Torbay was a fabulous place to work and live and to invest in.
Torbay Together, a strategic partnership, adopted the principles and aims of the campaign when it came to promoting the resort, welcoming regeneration and creating new jobs building new homes and improving health and education and making the most of our natural environment to give everybody a better quality of life and more prosperous future.
We seem to have gone full circle. Torbay Together adopted ‘Naturally Inspiring’ as its theme, its mantra because that is what the English Riviera is. It was then used by the English Riviera BID Company as a marketing tool. We have achieved so much.
Ministers have welcomed us with open arms, our health trust is world pioneering in the way it now also looks after social care and South Devon College just gets better and better.
We have retained our UNESCO Geopark status. We have formed a new housing company. Not bad for a start.
When it comes to investment and regeneration, I’m not sure where to start. By far the biggest is the £140 million being spent by the Fragrance Group on four new hotels in Torquay and Paignton.
Then we have the THAT group’s £32 million Torwood Street scheme which will include a Hilton-branded hotel, new office accommodation and restaurants. A new Premier Inn is being built just behind on part of the Terrace car park.
Our town centres are, hopefully, in line for a much-needed kiss of life with £40 million worth of government funding for regeneration and improvement schemes. The Strand area of Torquay is due for a facelift and, wait for it, the eyesore that is the former Crossways shopping centre in Paignton, is line for a redevelopment project.
Torbay Hospital is in line for a £400 million redevelopment and modernisation project.
There are moves for a new railway station at the gateway to Torquay at Edginswell and our cluster of hi-tech companies are among some of the most successful in the world.
If I’ve missed anything, apologies. And all of this in the middle of the world’s worst pandemic when the community has come together as one like never before. The icing in the cake would be solutions for the Pavilion, Oldway and now Living Coasts.
I guess what I am saying is perhaps it is time for Now Is the Time mark 2. Time to crack on with the post-pandemic Recovery/Transformation plan, time to grab with both hands all these fantastic opportunities, time look at the bigger picture and not delay.
It will be a lifetime before we ever have these kind of opportunities again. Opportunities to give our Naturally Inspiring English Riviera and our Naturally Inspiring community a new future.