After a rather wet few days it is time for my latest update.
A fair bit of my time has again been focussed on the issues affecting Torquay Town Centre. There is more detail below on a meeting held with Traders, Police and the Council on Monday, but it is clear there is not just one solution to the issues currently being faced. Following the meeting today I caught up with John Doherty of Dot’s Pantry to discuss next steps
Over the last two years I have taken part in the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme where MPs and Peers volunteer to spend time with the Armed Services. This year I am attached to the Royal College of Defence Studies in London. This allows me to attend lectures and seminars involving those from countries across the world who have been identified as having the potential to become senior commanders.
As parliament is in recess I was able to spend time at the college this week attending lectures covering radicalisation and the nature of terrorist activity, plus how to identify and combat it. These were followed by seminar sessions on the impact of cyber threats to global stability and what motivates nations to comply with or ignore international law.
Hearing the perspective of military personnel who have had first-hand experience of the front lines of these issues in Iraq, Eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Sub-Saharan Africa gives a very different insight into how policy choices can have real impacts.
This afternoon I was back in the bay and visited Ellacombe Academy for their Macmillan Coffee Morning. There were plenty of delicious cakes on sale and lots of money being raised for a charity which provides vital support to those facing cancer.
Finally there is lots of political debate going on in the bay today as UKIP supporters, along with some of their opponents, gather in the bay for their annual conference. Whilst not agreeing with their politics I hope all express their views peacefully and that those attending decide to come back for a future holiday.
This week’s update is below and includes: Town Centre Meeting, Christmas Carnival, Police at Paignton Primary School Gates, Town Councils Proposal Blocked, Court Victory for St Marychurch Photoshop Couple, South Devon Jobs Fair , Mega Mussel Farm Plan For Lyme Bay , Civic Church Service Ageing Well Festival 2017 and Finally……Tiger Takes a Selfie
Town Centre Meeting,
On Monday I met with Town Centre Traders, the Police, Local Press, Charities and Torbay Council at Hoopers on The Strand to discuss the recent issues with anti-social behaviour in Torquay Town Centre.
Over recent weeks the Police have launched a concerted effort to not only deal with some of the visible problems being seen in the Town Centre, but also to gather intelligence about those who are engaged in a range of unwelcome activities. This has seen two Spice Dealers brought before the courts and some regular nuisances now spending time behind bars. A recent day of action saw further arrests and more such activities are planned.
During the meeting Inspector Si Jenkinson and Supt Jacqui Hawley outlined the further actions they can take. This included plans to implement an order that would allow them to effectively tackle those fraudulently posing as homeless to beg for money from strangers. Yet the point was also made about how simply taking enforcement action was not a long-term solution to the issues with Torquay Town Centre. Supt Hawley also rightly pointed out how it is easy to be negative and demand someone else does something, yet all interested parties have to play their part.
A key point made during the meeting was the difference between those who have genuinely fallen on hard times and those who are professional beggars\fraudsters exploiting the good nature of others. A local charity, Humanity Torbay, is planning to open a night stop service so those who do need help can get off the streets at night, away from the bay’s night life, to get support and assistance.
I was asked during the meeting why Government Funding for tackling homelessness had not cleared people from The Strand. Yet this money only gets someone off the streets if they are homeless, not if they are pretending to be or are engaging in anti-social behaviour on the streets rather than at home. There are several regular faces begging on the Harbourside who have a home and money to support their needs, despite the convincing stories they will tell to get money from well-meaning visitors. It is these people, not the needy, the Police will be targeting.
In addition to the issues around anti-social behaviour points were made more widely about a need to have a group that helps bring different people (with an interest in the Town Centre) together to take action. Ending our Town Centre’s decline is not just about tackling crime, but also enhancing its attractiveness as a place to visit. The lack of some form of co-ordination or management, as is present in other Town Centres, is hampering Torquay. For example Torbay Road in Paignton has an active traders group which arranged light displays, events and competitions. A similar approach is needed in Torquay.
It was agreed an informal group (based on this meeting) would get together on a more regular basis, with John Doherty of Dot’s Pantry helping encourage traders to join and my team helping with secretarial duties. There are several issues and solutions are not easy or simple, yet a difference will only be made if all play their part, not just some.
Talking about positive actions the Torquay Christmas Carnival will take place in the Town Centre on Saturday 18th November, starting at 4:30pm.
Despite the awful weather it was great to see lots of local children taking part and getting into the festive spirit in last year’s parade. There were plenty of glowing sticks, fairy lights and tinsel to brighten the scene. If you want to take part this year or volunteer to help just email firstname.lastname@example.org
Some update readers will recall I got a bit of publicity last year after reacting to some on social media whose festive spirit seemed to be a bit lacking. Rather than thank the volunteer organisers for helping the children enjoy themselves, despite the rain, they made exaggerated complaints to our local newspaper’s twitter account. I suggested they should volunteer themselves if they could do better. Only one did.
Police at Paignton Primary School Gates,
Paignton Police have been present near Hayes Primary School this week after an older child was grabbed by the arm by an adult at the Morrisons Garage Junction near Paignton Zoo.
Thankfully the pupil acted sensibly and came to no harm, but the Police are investigating the incident that took place after school on Tuesday. The man concerned is describe as 6ft tall, wearing blue jeans and a grey hoodie.
You can read more on the Devon Live website by clicking here. If you were in the area on Tuesday and saw anything that might help the Police do contact them on their 101 non-emergency number.
Town Councils Proposal Blocked,
A proposal to create Town Councils for Paignton and Torquay was blocked by Torbay Councillors this week.
Those with very long memories will recall the two towns had their own Town Councils (Urban District Councils as they were called) prior to amalgamating (along with Brixham) to form Torbay Borough in the late 1960’s. Torbay then became a district under Devon CC in 1974, until later being made a Unitary Authority in 1998.
The main thrust behind recreating these Town Councils appears to have been the ability they would have to raise an additional precept on Council Tax (Brixham residents pay slightly more than the rest of Torbay due to their Town Council levying one). This could then have funded certain services which Torbay Council might transfer responsibility to them for.
I am sceptical about setting up a new Council just to put a few extra pounds on Council Tax bills. If they were to make a difference Town Councils would need to have real powers and a level of resources that would allow them to take forward projects of direct benefit to their town.
An organisation that brings together work on Town Centres or fund specific projects might help, just creating more Councillors and paid clerks to increase Council Tax Bills would not.
Court Victory for St Marychurch Photoshop Couple,
There was good news this week for Paul and Gail Freathy as they won their appeal over a deportation ruling.
The couple run a popular photographic shop in St Marychurch and have ploughed their earnings into the business, rather than draw a wage for it. This meant Gail potentially falling foul of rules around the level of income those living in the UK on a Spouse Visa must have, despite the business making a good profit.
The Judge’s ruling now means they can both continue their lives here in the bay. You can read the full story on Devon Live by clicking here.
South Devon Jobs Fair,
The South Devon Jobs Fair returns Friday 6th October and with it the chance to meet over 60 employers who are looking to recruit.
During the last Fair in March, over 650 candidates met with 55 employers from across Torbay and South Devon, who shared seasonal and permanent employment opportunities with their company.
The event is free and no registration is needed if looking for work. Just pop along to Torquay Town Hall Assembly Rooms between 09:30am and 1pm with lots of copies of your CV ready to hand over to the employers who will be there.
If you are an employer looking to recruit, who has not yet booked a spot, there is still a short time left to do so. Just click here for more details.
Mega Mussel Farm Plan For Lyme Bay
A mega mussel farm the size of Heathrow Airport could be created 6 miles off-shore in Lyme Bay, with our bay set to benefit from the jobs that could be created.
Three-year trials of the farm were completed last year and the family owned firm behind the scheme are now looking to expand to the full size of their lease. Whilst this project sounds large the lease site covers only 1% of the whole area of Lyme Bay. The plan is to tap into the European Market with much of the product being produced for export. You can read more about the project on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
It is welcome to hear of this expansion and a sign of confidence in our bay’s seafood industry ahead of Brexit.
Civic Church Service
This year’s Annual Civic Church Service will be taking place at St Luke’s Church, Torquay on Sunday 8 October 2017 at 3 pm.
Reverend Peter March, the Chairman’s Chaplain for this year, will be taking the service which will include traditional hymns and readings. The collection will be in support of the Chairman’s good causes – Carers’ Aid Torbay and Torbay Museums’ Trust.
If you would like to attend make sure you take your seat at 2.45pm ready for the 3 pm start.
and Finally……Tiger Takes a Selfie
Ending on a lighter note many across the bay will have heard of the children’s book “The Tiger Who Came For Tea”, yet now the bay has the Tiger that got the perfect selfie.
Fabi, one of Paignton Zoo’s Sumatran Tigers, decided to take a closer look after a set of cameras were set up in his enclosure as part of a major event taking place in London, New Scientist Live. The cameras were intended to create a virtual reality experience and seeing a 110 kilo Tiger face to face is quite something.
You can see the amazing footage, plus hear more about the project Fabi is staring in, on the Devon Live website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.