Steve Darling: Entrepreneurship is alive and well despite pandemic

Torbay Weekly

During the pandemic many of us discovered new ways of life, whether from regular exercise in our neighbourhood or learning to value local, small businesses who adapted their services to meet our needs and survive the lockdown periods.

I know from conversations I have had on the doorstep that people developed a stronger connection to many local retailers who went more than the extra mile to support their local community.

After the spring lockdowns, I and other councillors dropped letters of thanks to retailers who had been mentioned by grateful residents.

On Saturday, December 4, Small Business Saturday takes place across the UK and is a good opportunity to recognise and rediscover our local high streets.

According to data from Inform Direct, 882 businesses were started in Torbay in 2020 and over 7,000 new companies across Devon were formally registered, showing that entrepreneurship is alive and well, despite pandemic difficulties.

This data is backed up by TDA’s Torbay Business Advisor, who reported more start-up enquiries since March 2020 than ever before.

Although Covid-19 caused casualties, Torbay’s high streets have new restaurants, salons, and shops, with more expected to open next year.

As part of the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, you can also find local high streets online through local rewards chat.

It includes the latest information on offers, products and Christmas opening times.

Businesses are being encouraged to pledge exclusive rewards for shoppers using High Street Guides and any businesses new to the scheme can get help and support with their digital outputs from the provider Maybe.

To encourage you back into town centres, Torbay Council is also reducing its parking charges during December so you can pay for the hour and stay for the day.

The return of our winter parking promotion means you can support businesses in Torbay town centres for less in the run-up to Christmas.

As well as the creation of new business, there’s a lot happening in our town centres.

Once-in-a-lifetime transformation projects are starting to take shape, and in early 2022 we’ll start to see more and more happening on the ground.

One of the first projects is enhancements to the harbourside area in Torquay.

In the spring, Crossways in Paignton will be demolished to make way for much-needed housing.

The regeneration of Brixham car park will move forward and new affordable homes will be developed by TorVista Homes.

There are also many more exciting multi-million-pound projects happening across Torquay, Paignton and Brixham.

Unfortunately, there is usually some form of disruption during any period of change and many of us will be frustrated by closed roads or restricted access while the work takes place.

This will be the focus of attention for our latest Facebook Live event on December 2.

The Live, which will start at 6 pm, will have representatives from Network Rail and our highways teams who will share more about schemes Torwood Street and Wheatridge Lane.

You’ll be able to ask the panel questions during the event.

Make sure you follow Torbay Council’s Facebook page, so you get a notification when the Live starts.

High streets aren’t the only places contributing to our local prosperity.

Small businesses based in other locations across the Bay are also important.

As Christmas approaches, many local entrepreneurs are taking part in festive fairs such as in Torre Abbey’s Winterfest event.

After a year’s absence, the Christmas fair is returning this Saturday and Sunday, November 27-28, and will be held in the stunning setting of the Spanish Barn.

Over in Cockington there are more than 20 skilled contemporary artists and craft  workers selling high-quality products.

Their talents deserve special recognition. They play a vital role in breathing life into this popular attraction as well as our local economy.

Small businesses are the life blood of the Bay’s economy and it’s important that we do all we can to support them to help Torbay thrive.