As September arrives it is time for my latest update.
Earlier today I met with Torquay United Chairman Clarke Osborne to discuss his plans for the club and raise fans’ concerns about the future of Plainmoor. Our meeting was a productive one and there are more details below.
Parliament has been in recess this week so I have been able to get out and about in the bay. This week’s events have included attending a Hog Roast and Songs of Praise at All Saints’ in Babbacombe, the Grand Charities Fayre at St Matthew’s, Chelston, the Fair Play Day 2017 in Torre Abbey Sands (More on this below) and the Council Chairman’s Garden Party in aid of her 2 chosen charities.
Whilst parliament may not be sitting the work of Government Departments continues. On Wednesday I headed to the Department for Communities and Local Government, in my role as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State, for briefing meetings ahead of debates that will take place when MPs return to Westminster next week.
Throughout this week my team and I have continued chasing issues in Torquay Town Centre and yesterday I met the owners of Conroy Couch, one of the longest running businesses in the Town Centre. It was interesting to reflect on some of the issues they have faced recently, along with reflecting on the many changes in Union Street over recent decades. Sadly we also discussed some of the missed opportunities in the past that might have helped reduce the decline now seen.
Finally I visited Skeinah Grow in Preston as part of events there to mark International Overdose Awareness Day on Thursday. The main part of the day was a talk from a Mother who lost her son to an overdose. She gave some powerful insights into what this meant to the family, along with some thoughts about how to help others avoid such a fate.
This week’s update is below and includes: Meeting With Clarke Osborne, Town Centre Dispersal Order, Improvement Works Start In Castle Circus, Rogue Landlords Could Face £30K Penalty, Landlady Facing Prison Over Unsafe Paignton Flats, Saltwater Proof Trains, Torquay Magistrates Court Adjourns Permanently, Police Seek Witnesses To Paignton Assault, Torquay Burglaries, Wellswood & Torwood Partnership Celebrate Grant and finally….Four Candles?
Meeting With Clarke Osborne,
Today I met with Clarke Osborne, Chairman of Torquay United Football Club, to discuss his plans for the club, plus the concerns fans have raised about the future of Plainmoor.
During the meeting, that lasted just over an hour, a range of subjects were covered including plans for a new Academy, work to bring additional investors\commercial supporters into the club, his vision for where TUFC will be in five year’s time, plans for a new stadium and, crucially, what his intentions were in relation to the Club acquiring the Freehold of Plainmoor Stadium.
Mr Osborne confirmed that it was no longer the Club’s intention to seek the purchase of the Freehold at Plainmoor, other than as a part of a future deal that encompassed the building of a new stadium. When questioned he confirmed that the intention would be for the club to own any new stadium, with a view to non-matchday revenues being used to support the club overall.
This was a welcome discussion and I was pleased to be able to put some of the concerns raised by fans directly to Mr Osborne. His comments on the Freehold issue and on an Academy facility for TUFC were particularly welcome.
Plainmoor’s Freehold cannot be considered separately to a binding plan to build a new stadium. Its ownership by the Council is intended to ensure there is a facility suitable for League Football here in the bay and protect it. Any deal to build a new stadium must be based on firm business plans, delivering a long term sustainable future for TUFC as a club playing in the football league.
Town Centre Dispersal Order,
In last week’s update I reported on the measures being taking to crack down on the problems with Anti-Social Behaviour and Drug Usage that have been blighting Torquay Town Centre.
Last week the Police implemented a Dispersal Order across Torquay Town Centre and the Harbourside. This gave officers in uniform the power to disperse anyone engaging in crime and anti-social behaviour from the area. Whilst a Dispersal Order can only last for 48hours at a time a new one can be put in place immediately. This was undertaken for 6 days in a row.
I am advised the use of these powers is being reviewed on a daily basis, but they cannot be utilised indefinitely. As a result they have been working closely with the CPS to look at all options available. Over the weekend 6 people were dispersed and 2 arrested under the powers the Police were given under the dispersal order.
I have had some positive feedback from people in and around the Town Centre saying that they noticed a real difference over the bank holiday weekend. Yet this cannot just be a temporary effect, hence the need for long term improvements to not just design out crime, but to regenerate the Town Centre.
I am aware that there has been some displacement activity as a result of recent actions (For example to the shelter opposite Torre Station) and do report any emerging issues to the Police on their 101 number.
There was some commentary on Social Media from those who felt the enforcement action should instead be replaced with efforts to help instead. There are groups in our bay who are holding out their hand to help those who are on the streets and need support to turn their life around. Yet if these offers are ignored we cannot just turn a blind eye as people put their lives on the line using drugs openly on our streets.
As the Daily Mail reported today, Torquay is sadly not the only place where these issues are being seen. You can read their article here.
Improvement Works Start In Castle Circus,
The action taken last week, along with the jailing of some regular trouble makers, has helped improve Castle Circus, yet more work is needed to prevent these problems returning.
Work has started this week on the first of a series of changes that will help reduce the attractiveness of Castle Circus as a place to engage in anti-social behaviour. Work to remove the planter outside the Castle Pub started yesterday and will take about a week. I am advised that the materials necessary have also been ordered for the hanging baskets due to be installed at the corner of Castle Circus and Factory Row, with work due to start next week.
Council Officers have informed me that they are still waiting on a start date for the Castle Pub to board up the doorways and use graffiti paint, but this is imminent. The Council is also seeking permission from the owner of the former Boots Chemist to board up the side door with a wooden gate and remove usage of the step.
It is welcome to see these small, but helpful, improvements being made. I have also written to the Agents of the former Boots Premises asking what their plans are for this currently empty shop.
Rogue Landlords Could Face £30K Penalty,
Rogue landlords could face fines of up to £30,000 for failing to meet housing standards as Torbay Council looks to implement a new fines system.
The Council is looking to adopt the new fines system (under new powers granted by the Housing & Planning Act 2016) in a bid to improve the condition of privately rented housing in the Bay. Income from the fines will be retained by the council, but can only be used to improve housing standards in the private rented sector. You can read more about the new fines and how they will work on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
The majority of landlords in Torbay provide good quality properties at a reasonable rent, so will have nothing to worry about. Yet there is a small minority who seek to exploit their tenants or ignore rules designed to keep them safe. These new proposals are therefore welcome and will help deal with rogue operators.
Landlady Facing Prison Over Unsafe Paignton Flats,
The Grenfell Tower Disaster showed what can happen when Fire Safety Rules are ignored or not enforced properly.
I therefore welcome the news that Devon and Somerset Fire Service have successfully prosecuted a Landlord who failed to undertake vital Fire Safety work at flats she owned at two properties in Paignton. The serious breaches concerned could have cost lives if a fire had broken out.
You can read more on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
Saltwater Proof Trains,
Over the next two years a fleet of brand new trains will replace the (nearly) forty year old class 43 units that currently run between London and our region.
The Hitachi trains promise a lot and look very impressive when you see them on the track. They are also much bigger than our current trains with 10 carriages (capable of splitting into two units of 5) rather than 8 in a set. Yet one question people regularly ask is: How will they cope with the waves at Dawlish?
The sight of our current Intercity Trains ploughing through the waves crashing over the sea wall at Dawlish is an iconic image and a tribute to the engineers who designed them. Yet more modern trains used by Crosscountry cannot cope with this swell due to a design fault, hence the questions about the new fleet.
I am pleased to report that the new fleet is being subjected to rigorous tests to simulate extreme weather conditions, including those they may face at Dawlish. Three of the new trains have been put through a giant train washing system, allowing gallons of saltwater to be poured on them to test not only the effectiveness of the brake resistor platforms, but also the waterproof seals of the carriage doors and windows.
You can read more on the Daily Telegraph website by clicking here.
Torquay Magistrates Court Adjourns Permanently,
There was sadness this week as Torquay Magistrates Court adjourned for the last time, taking with it a 60-year tradition of local justice.
Whilst this is a sad outcome I would again like to thank all those who supported the Keep Justice Local campaign. Despite the closure of the building I will continue to raise in parliament the need for justice to be done locally, particularly when there is a County Court building in Torquay that could be adapted to hear some criminal cases.
You can read an excellent comment about why this closure matters and the atmosphere as the Court heard its last cases on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
Police Seek Witnesses To Paignton Assault,
Paignton Police are appealing for witnesses to an assault that took place in Palace Avenue on Wednesday 12 July 2017.
The incident happened between 10.35am and 10.40am in the alleyway between New Street and Palace Avenue. Two male offenders approached a 25-year-old man who was carrying his tool bag and tried to pull the bag away from the victim. You can read the full details on the Devon & Cornwall Police website by clicking here.
If you were in the area and saw anything please email the Police on email@example.com quoting crime reference CR/057076/17.
The Police are also appealing for information following a series of Burglaries in Torquay over the last week.
The first incident happened in Warbro Road at about 8.45pm on Bank Holiday Monday [August 28]. A man forced his way into the conservatory and was trying to break into the kitchen when he was disturbed by the 76-year-old homeowner.
A few hours later somebody broke into a house in nearby Hingston Road. While the 85-year-old resident was asleep the raider broke in the front door and stole some cash and jewellery, including cufflinks.
Police are linking the two incidents and you can read more details, plus how to pass on any information you may have, on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
Wellswood & Torwood Partnership Celebrate Grant,
The Wellswood & Torwood Community Partnership have secured £19,541.00 from the Ageing Well Innovation Fund for a scheme to help people who might be isolated get out and about.
They will be working with the Torbay Community Development Trust to provide a door to door bus service with professionally trained staff to enable the over 50’s with disabilities, who might ordinarily be very limited in their social activity, to get out safely to coffee mornings, clubs, the cinema, theatre and even shopping. A local round trip will cost £2 a time and a day trip would be £10, dependant on distance.
The project will be running over the next few months with a view to starting the service in November.
and finally….Four Candles?
Ending on a lighter note if you need to buy Four Candles, 2 Os, Peas or even a handle for your fork there is some good news.
Garnice and John Morgan, who run Drowers in St Marychurch, had announced plans to retire after 35 years in the business. They are both in their 80s so were looking forward to a bit of time to themselves enjoying their garden. Yet after many customers highlighted the service they provide they have decided to stay on. You can read more on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.