After a day that is said to be lucky for some it is time for my latest update.
The week started with my regular surgery session at Paignton Library last Saturday, with residents bringing a range of issues to me. These included queries about benefit payments, family problems and questions about government policy.
Sunday saw me attend the Civic Church Service at St Luke’s, Torquay. This event is most notable for the number of Civic Chains on show as Mayors, Council Chairmen and Plymouth’s Lord Mayor head to our bay for it. The Council Chairman and I did readings, plus it was good to see Torbay’s Air Cadets on parade as well.
Later that evening I headed back to London for a busy week of meetings, correspondence and some fairly lively debates in the Commons as MPs assembled for the first time since the party conference season. I raised several local issues and there is more detail on these below.
I managed to get home slightly earlier than expected yesterday so visited the Torbay Business Festival, arranged by the Torbay Business Forum. It was good to see a range of businesses taking part, with everything from fudge to financial advice on offer. If you are in business in the bay and would like more details of the Forum’s future events you can find them on their website by clicking here.
This morning I was at Torbay Hospital for the curtain raiser event for national Work Experience Month. This annual event is organised by the Fair Train Group which seeks to promote and encourage employers to offer good quality work experience. After that I headed to the annex site for the formal ceremony to mark the Devon Studio School merging with South Devon College. This will see the site used for Sixth Form provision, with the focus still firmly on preparing students for a career in Health and Social Care. As pictured above I was able to discuss with the College Principal their plans for enhancing this work with a bid for Institute of Technology status.
This week’s update is below and includes: Rugby Ban Kicked Into Touch, Town Centre ASB On Parliament’s Agenda, Humanity Torbay, Relocate To Torbay, Universal Credit, Government Respond to Bus Petition, Monarch Collapse Brings ATOL Question, Check The Weather If Heading Out, Rail Disruption, Call For Evidence On Traveller Law, Retirement Village Proposed In Maidencombe, Stoodley Sale Latest, Tiger Treat, and finally…. Torquay United “Walking” Over The Line.
Rugby Ban Kicked Into Touch,
Earlier today Torbay Council made the welcome announcement it was kicking into touch an attempt to ban 8 & 9 year olds playing rugby in Torbay Park, Paignton.
The dispute came about after Paignton Rugby Club approached the Council earlier this year to discuss its growing need for extra youth facilities. The council then offered nearby Torbay Park as an option, which the club pays a small fee to use. The permission only allows use of the pitches once a week between 10:30am and just after midday on Sunday, yet a small number of complaints saw the council rescind its offer and try to ban the games.
The Council is right to impose requirements on the Rugby Club not to use the two small pitches if they are waterlogged and to clear up any litter left behind after a game. Yet there were no reasonable grounds for banning under 10s rugby taking place, although there should have been communication with residents and businesses surrounding the park to explain what was happening before the pitch lines were painted.
Town Centre ASB On Parliament’s Agenda,
I took the opportunity of a parliamentary debate about Aggressive Anti-Social Behaviour to raise the issues seen in Torquay Town Centre this summer with Government Ministers.
In my speech I highlighted the issues with “Spice” (A powerful illegal drug) which resulted in a day when six people had collapsed in Castle Circus by lunchtime, with ambulances making regular visits throughout the week to those affected by this drug. I also pointed to the problems with persistent beggars, who are not genuinely destitute, that take advantage of the good nature of local people by regularly appearing in our Town Centre. You can hear what I said in the debate by clicking here.
Torquay Police have had success in terms of convictions and prison sentences for regular nuisances in the Town Centre, with signs that much of the work is producing results. Only this week a person responsible for selling much of the Spice which caused such problems earlier this year was sent to prison (You can read more on the Devon live Website by clicking here.).
The Police are planning further action days with work to target fake beggars, drug dealers and those engaging in anti-social behaviour. Sadly on some occasions passers-by, unaware of the fake nature of some beggars, have not been supportive when the Police are tackling this issue. I hope all update readers will be supportive if they see them taking the action required to deal with this issue. Ultimately the fraudsters engaging in this practice take money that should go to help genuinely vulnerable people, not into the pocket of a drug dealer or gang.
Finally earlier today a networking group aimed at bringing together those with an interest in the Town Centre and dealing with its issues met for two hours at Dot’s Pantry in Union St. There was a constructive discussion and plans for further action made. If you are a trader or business owner in the Town Centre do let me know and I will get you added to the mailing list for this group.
Local charity Humanity Torbay was in the media today talking about its work to support those who have become homeless back into accommodation and work.
The charity (The group received charitable status this week) is based near Castle Circus and not only offers a place for a rest and advice, but ongoing support when someone gets a home. You can read more about their work on the group’s website by clicking here.
Part of tackling the issues in our Town Centre is ensuring there are support services for those who find themselves without a home or in need of help to avoid being on the streets again. It is therefore welcome to see the work done by this charity.
Relocate To Torbay,
In the long term our Town Centre’s regeneration will depend on strengthening the whole economy of the bay and one way to do this is to attract Government Jobs to relocate here from London.
I see no reason for taxpayers to continue paying the bill for expensive Central London office locations when modern communications make it easy to work remotely. Whilst some core functions around supporting parliament and ministerial work do need to be located close together, many back-office functions do not.
I took the chance to raise in parliament this week what progress the government was making with moving work out of London. You can read my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
The rollout of Universal Credit has been in the news again this week.
Whilst this is not due to happen in Torbay until May 2018 my team and I have been engaging with the Department of Work and Pensions about it over recent months. Whilst the theory of combining many different benefits into one payment and assessment makes sense, the practical application of this to many thousands of cases brings a major level of complexity to it. One issue has been the timely payment of claimants.
On Monday I challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to outline in parliament what reassurances he could give me that resources would be made available to ensure Torbay claimants were paid on time. You can read his response by clicking here.
Government Respond to Bus Petition,
In last week’s update I reported that the Council had now accepted the petition in relation to Bus Services lost in April.
There has been some real progress with getting services reinstated, on a not-for-profit basis, and having been involved in this issue since March it has been encouraging to see. I will include any further news in future updates as I receive it.
In response to my presenting the petition in parliament the government has also responded to it listing some of the options available for seeking funding to support local services. I have passed the response to those working on the options for reinstating the services.
Monarch Collapse Brings ATOL Question,
The Secretary of State for Transport gave a statement to MPs this week on the work done by the Government in response to the collapse of Monarch.
When the airline collapsed 110,000 of its customers were abroad resulting in a major operation to return them to the UK. By Monday 80,000 of these travellers had returned to the UK, with those abroad still enjoying the reminder of their booked holiday.
The ATOL scheme, which helped protect many of those who had booked holidays with Monarch before its collapse, is the subject of a bill currently making its way through parliament which aims to modernise the rules of the scheme. I therefore asked what lessons were being taken from the collapse in terms of this reform. You can read my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Check The Weather If Heading Out,
Whilst some pleasantly warm weather is expected this weekend there are warnings of very strong winds being expected on Monday.
Do bear this in mind, particularly if thinking of heading out to sea or near to the coast on Monday. As always you can find the latest and best weather forecast on the Met Office website by clicking here.
If planning a trip to London by train this weekend do bear in mind that there is significant disruption on the line due to major engineering works at Reading.
You can find out more on the GWR website by clicking here. I am advised that if you have booked a ticket for travel to London tomorrow or Sunday it will be valid for travel at any time on Monday 16th October.
Retirement Village Proposed In Maidencombe,
A public exhibition was held this week of plans to build a large retirement village complex at Sladnor Park in Maidencombe.
The plans are being proposed by a national company who has built similar developments in other areas of the UK. You can read more on the Herald Express website by clicking here. The exhibition is part of a consultation being organised by the developer before they apply for planning permission.
I am advised the Maidencombe Residents’ Association has indicated it will be opposing the plan.
Stoodley Sale Latest,
Further details of plans for the former Stoodley Knowle School in Ilsham were revealed this week when it was confirmed the Diocese of Plymouth was the purchaser of the site.
Ahead of the acquisition, the Plymouth Diocese asked the Bristol-based PG Group to produce some outline concepts for the future development of the school site.
The Diocese has stated that their initial proposals have focused on some residential development which retains the majority of the open grassland and woodland. The Victorian manor house, known at Stoodley Knowle, and Ilsham Manor, the Arts and Crafts building which was formerly the junior house, will also be retained along with the Grade 2* listed medieval chapel and several listed barns.
A number of ancillary school buildings, dating back to the 1930s and 1960s would be demolished under the proposals being considered.
When there is any further news about these plans I will include it in a future update.
I am not the biggest fan of “Trick or Treat”, yet three Paignton residents who would certainly give you a scare if they showed up on your doorstep got their teeth into a Halloween treat this week.
The Zoo’s prized Sumatran tigers – male Fabi, aged 10, female Shakira, 15, and cub Lucu, were given carved pumpkins. They wasted no time in destroying the decorated vegetables, some grown by the Zoo’s own gardeners, to get a meaty treat hidden inside.
Shakira made the national news with her photo featured in the Daily Telegraph. You can see the article by clicking here.
and finally…. Torquay United “Walking” Over The Line.
Ending on a lighter note “walking” the ball over the line at Plainmoor may soon have a whole new meaning after Torquay United set up its very own walking football team.
Walking football is a fantastic way for the over 50s to have fun, compete and keep fit. The game has the same rules as regular football, but one crucial added one, you cannot run. Whilst the games may be in slightly slower motion they are no less competitive as walking football originated as a training method to encourage players to focus on tactics, not just speed.
The club meets at Paignton Sports early Monday evenings and is fast becoming a thriving club with men and women from across the Bay getting involved. If you’re interested in walking your way to football glory you can find more details by clicking here.
Artizan Gallery: Life Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness, America through Cornish Eyes. This month the gallery welcomes New York based photographer Mark Wallis to the gallery. The exhibtion will run until 28th October.
Raising awareness of dementia. Saturday, October 14th. 7pm at Boots & Laces Bar (At Torquay United Football Club Stadium, Marnham Road) Dancing prize draw – two DJ’s – vinyl music. Contact Simpson Ward on 01803 655545 or Cheetham Hill Ward on 01803 655547. Alternatively call Steven Brown on 07837 662847. Tickets £5 in advance or £5 on the door.
Children In Need Ramble – Thursday 19 October – A Walk from Hollacombe CRC (386 Torquay rd) to Las Iguanas for refreshments then back to Hollacombe CRC. Walking along the coast road, to raise money for” Children in Need”. Anyone welcome to join in. Meeting at Hollacombe at 10am
Price: Free/ Donations.
Cockington’s 24th Apple Day Sunday 15th October promising to be a show stopper, and this year it’s free! – at Cockington Court between 10am and 4pm.
For more information on the event or for a Stall Holders Enquiry Form visit the Apple Day page on the Cockington Court website, www.cockingtoncourt.org
Craft Fair – Church Hall at St Martin’s Barton Saturday 28th of October from 10 – 3PM. There will be a great variety of stalls selling home made crafts,home made jams, cakes, sandwiches and light lunches. Free Admission.