Key to bright future is telling the Torbay Story - and what a story we have to tell

Flashback to group's visit to meet former minister Jake Berry

Flashback to the Jake Berry delegation - Credit: Submitted

Torbay is a stunning place to live, work and visit. Said it many times before and will keep saying it.

That's not to hide, dismiss or ignore the problems we also face as a seaside resort. Absolutely not. 

But Torbay has a great story to tell and by telling others that story, what we have and what we can offer, we can tackle those issues and deliver a better, healthier, happier and more prosperous future for everybody.

The Torbay Together partnership, which I am honoured and privileged to chair, has been doing its best to do just that over the past few years.

Bringing the public, private, voluntary sectors and the community together with a united voice, it has strived to champion the Bay and go knocking on the right doors at the right time in the quest to deliver its goals including attracting regeneration investment, creating new jobs, building new homes, improving our already excellent education and health services and taking full advantage of the English Riviera's Naturally Inspiring beautiful environment.

It is more than three years ago that a small delegation from Torbay Together paid a couple of visits to ministers in London.

Torbay MP Kevin Foster played a big part in organising the trip for the group which included Alan Denby, then of TDA, former South Devon College principal Stephen Criddle, Ann Wagner, formerly from the local health trust, business representative Tim Godfrey, then council leader Dave Thomas and a Russian doll called Matilda which encapsulated within all our 'asks'.

Most Read

The first meeting with then Growth Minister Jake Berry - the government had just given Grimsby millions of pounds in town deal funding- was a great success. He loved Matilda. A second visit to then Industrial Strategy minister Lord Henley also helped put the Bay on the map really for the first time.

A couple of years later, Torbay was receiving almost £22 million in government Town Deal funding for Torquay, more than £13 million for Paignton in its Future High Streets initiative and around £200 million to build a new Torbay Hospital.

I am not for one minute suggesting that was all down to the delegation. There has been lots of other lobbying and other good work going on. But I would like to think Matilda played her part.

Now, with a new rail station planned and millions of pounds investment from the private sector, the Bay finds itself at the crossroads with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver that better Bay.

Now is the Time to move forward, not stand still. What was needed was a fresh pair of eyes looking in from the outside. That's where Thinking Place came in, an organisation whose expertise was to focus on a city or town and define its identity, what it has to offer, what story it has to tell to the outside world so it can win support in so many different ways to progress.

Thinking Place have been working with Torbay Together on building that Torbay Story, identifying what we and our three towns are as places with particular themes.

The strategic aims when it comes to investment, jobs etc, won't change but what we will have is a Torbay Story to tell with special toolkits when we go knocking on those doors of opportunity

The plan is set up a Placed Leadership Board with Torbay Together partners and others acting as Ambassadors shouting aloud the Torbay Story. There will also be own Boards for Torquay, Paignton and Brixham as part of the structure to make sure the community has its vital voice included and heard. For me this will be a from-the-bottom-up structure to make sure everybody is involved and included.

Thinking Place say: "Over the past year, we have been speaking with partners, businesses and residents from across Torbay to develop a forward looking, positive and compelling story for Torbay and the three towns of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay. We’re doing this so that together we can put the place on the map, highlight the great things about the area and talk about the opportunities we can offer to attract investment, create jobs and attract funding from Government.

"We have listened to what people think about our place, both the good and the bad, to create a shared story that highlights Torbay’s distinctiveness and character."

Over the coming weeks more details will emerge. Better get Matilda ready!