After a showery day here in the bay it is time for my latest update.
Earlier today I managed to dodge the showers and headed over to Torquay Museum for the exhibition of what could be the largest private sector investment in our bay since the modern Borough of Torbay was created in the late 1960’s. More information below, along with links to where you can give your opinion on it.
My week started very differently with an early start on Saturday for my regular visit to the Christians Together in Torquay Prayer Breakfast. This gathering is a chance for me to reflect on recent events and what issues local churches may wish to pray about. I do not get into Party Political points, with the focus being for this month praying for Parliament as it approaches key decisions on Brexit.
After Breakfast I headed to St Martin’s Barton for my regular weekly surgery, followed by a welcome visit to Cary Park Tennis Club as I formally opened their new Clubhouse. The club has done great work to get more people playing the game, with a vibrant group of young players who could one day be champions themselves.
New Tennis facilities were not the only thing I was opening on Saturday as a new business, Torbay Cycle Hire, invited me over to open their new shop in Preston.The new business is aimed at increasing the opportunities for visitors to enjoy cycling when in our bay, including a range of electrically assisted bikes to make our famous hills a little bit easier to climb.
Sunday morning started with a visit to Torquay ARFC for a discussion about problems they are having with the pitch used by some of their youth teams in Torre Valley South. The pitch is next to a car park and sadly a small minority of dog owners are spoiling it by not cleaning up after their pet. This is wasting the club’s time each Sunday Morning when a major clean up is needed before games can take place. We discussed what could be done to improve this.
I headed up to London on Sunday evening ahead of a busy week in parliament, with a wide range of issues debated by MPs. I detail below some of those I have been involved with in the main chamber, plus I also got to sit on two Smaller Committees of MPs dealing with more technical pieces of legislation. One on the regulation of Medicines post Brexit, the second on Electronic Invoicing.
I returned to the bay last night ahead of a busy day of appointments today which included visiting the Torwood Street Development (Bottom Right), heading to the Beaches Guest House in Paignton and finally attending a spectacular performance of Les Miserables at Torquay Boys Grammar School tonight.
This week’s update is below and includes: Torwood St Development Update, Paignton Harbour Investment, Torquay Waitrose Closure, Town Centres Fund Question, Devon & Cornwall Infrastructure Spending, Community Housing Day, Roadworks Rule Changes Proposed, Knife Crime, PIP\ESA Assessment Changes, Kashmir, Kev’s Column: Palace Hotel and finally…….Great Escape Spirit Lives On.
Torwood St Development Update,
Earlier today Cllr Dave Thomas and I visited the Torwood Street Development for an update on progress from Ivan Hodgson the Site Manager for Tolent Construction.
It was great to see so much activity on the site with the first concrete already being poured which will form the Ground Floor Base. The erection of the tower crane at the end of February marked a significant milestone in the works and I am advised the operator has a fantastic view of the bay from his cab. During late January and most of February almost 5,500 cubic metres of earth were removed from the site to reduce the site level down to the street level of Torwood Street.
The next 3 months will see the completion of the groundwork’s (piling, drainage, and foundations) residents will then see the structural concrete frame of the new building reaching skywards. The main structural frame is due to be completed in late Autumn 2019.
It was great to hear of the progress being made on this scheme which is not only providing jobs but helping spur more investment into Torquay’s Harbourside Area.
Paignton Harbour Investment,
It is not just Torquay’s Harbourside which will be seeing investment as this week it was confirmed Torbay Council will grant a 90 year lease of the Harbour Light building to St. Austell Brewery (subject to planning)
The Harbour Light is a Grade II listed building at the entrance to Paignton Harbour, visible from Paignton Green and Paignton Beach. It is in urgent need of investment to not only preserve it, but to attract more people to the Harbour, which is one of the “hidden gems” of our bay.
I understand they have some exciting plans for the building and you only need look at the Old Market House in Brixham, also owned by St Austell Brewery, to see what could be done.
Torquay Waitrose Closure,
Amidst the positive economic news for our bay, there was also the sad news Torquay’s Waitrose Store in Plainmoor will close.
Waitrose has operated on the site for nearly 10 years but will now close on 9th June. I am advised they have already agreed the sale of the store to another retailer, although they have not confirmed the identity of the purchaser despite some speculation online. 96 people work at the Torquay store.
Staff were told this week and Waitrose have also sold their store in Teignmouth which was only opened in 2014. You can read more on Devon Live by clicking here.
I have requested further information on the future use of the building as so far the only info provided to me is the purchaser “will be undertaking works to the unit for an extended period of time with plans likely to be shared at a later date”.
Town Centres Fund Question,
Pushing forward plans for much needed regeneration of our Town Centres is one of the issues I prioritise as Torbay’s MP.
In recent updates I have covered the plan to make a bid for significant funding to help regenerate Paignton Town Centre after the Government launched its Future High Streets Fund.
On Monday I got selected to ask a question about this fund to the Minister responsible, so took the opportunity to see if he agreed with me Paignton is exactly the sort of place this fund should be looking to help!!!
You can listen to my question and his response by clicking here.
Devon & Cornwall Infrastructure Spending,
Securing investment into our transport infrastructure is one of the key priorities for MPs representing Devon and Cornwall.
I was lucky to be drawn for a question to Treasury Ministers on Tuesday asking what plans they had for additional investment in our two counties infrastructure. The timing could not have been better either as it was also St Piran’s Day.
I pushed the Treasury for more commitments towards rail resilience at Dawlish and you can read my question, along with the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Community Housing Day,
Residents who want to help end homelessness are invited to a Community Housing Day to explore ideas, opportunities and practical action that we could take together locally.
I am advised the event will be participatory, interactive and creative. During the event you will hear examples of community led housing and discuss their potential to deliver housing for people who are homeless in Torbay. The aim of the event is to share experiences, explore ideas for change and develop plans for action.
The event is being held on Saturday 23rd March at Paignton Library, with tea and coffee available from 9:30am for a 10am start. Lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day with the event due to finish at 3pm.
For more information please contact email@example.com or call 01803 208725.
You can register to attend online by clicking here.
Roadworks Rule Changes Proposed,
Potholes are not only a nuisance to motorists, but a menace to cyclists and motorcyclists.
Many form at the edge of reinstatement works done on trenches cut into the road surface by utilities as water gets into even the smallest gap left. The utility who undertook the work is required to guarantee it for either two or three-years, yet afterwards the cost can fall on the taxpayer.
This week the Government launched a consultation on increasing the guarantee on roadworks, so if a pothole forms as a result within five years, the utility company responsible must return to bring the road surface back to normal. The aim is to issue revised guidance over the Summer.
This is a welcome move and should not only improve the quality of our roads, but ensure taxpayer funded repairs can focus on other issues.
The tragic murders of two teenagers brought into sharp focus the issue of Knife Crime and the terrible impact it can have.
Last year I was part of a Committee of MPs examining in some detail the Offensive Weapons Bill which will change the law around knife sales, including closing loopholes relating to online sales and updating the law on flick knives. This legislation will have some impact when implemented but will not solve the current issues on its own, meaning careful consideration will need to be given to it, including the resources available to the Police.
On Monday MPs questioned the Home Secretary about his issue, with many MPs speaking about the experience in their own areas. The drivers and trends in such behaviour vary dramatically between different areas, making it vital national strategies to tackle it are tailored by local Police Forces to be as effective as possible. You can read the point I raised by clicking here.
PIP\ESA Assessment Changes,
Major changes to the process of assessment for key disability benefits were announced this week which will benefit many here in the bay.
The currently separate work capability assessment for ESA and universal credit and PIP assessment services will be combined into one unified, integrated service from 2021. This will prevent those applying for the payments facing separate assessments of their health for these benefits.
It was also announced those receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP) who have reached State Pension age will no longer have their awards regularly reviewed, instead moving to a light touch review every 10 year. This will affect around 270,000 pensioners with disabilities and will end an unnecessary experience for older people.
During a discussion on these changes I also highlighted another issue, ensuring an independent record of the assessment undertaken to aid appeals and improve accuracy.
You can read my comments and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
Recent events in Kashmir have caused concern around the world.
Kashmir has been a flash point for decades, with India and Pakistan having fought over it in the past. Yet despite the intense rivalry over this disputed province the armed forces of both nations enjoy good relationships with the UK military. Last year my course at the Royal College of Defence Studies saw students from both nations work together on assignments and in seminar groups.
Yesterday MPs discussed the situation and I highlighted how the informal links provided by such study might be used to ensure both sides can communicate with each other to avoid a mistake leading to conflict.
You can listen to my comments by clicking here.
Kev’s Column: Palace Hotel
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read the latest edition by following the link below:
and finally…….Great Escape Spirit Lives On.
Three weeks ago the last survivor of the 76 airmen to take part in the “Great Escape” from Stalag Luft III passed away at the age of 99.
Their efforts, plus the sacrifice of those murdered by the Gestapo afterwards, were immortalised in the iconic film. Yet the spirit of escape seems strong amongst a group of Paignton Zoo’s residents, with their second break for freedom being made this week.
A young female West Caucasian Tur was spooked while vets were working with the herd and escaped from their enclosure. This follows another member of the herd making a dash for nearby woods in September. You can read more on the BBC website by clicking here.
This break out did not get past the Zoo’s perimeter fence and the animal returned to its enclosure.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
8 March to 23 March – Tuesday 11:00 – 19:00, Wednesday to Friday 11:00 – 18:00 and Saturday 10:00 – 18:00. Natural Affinity at Artizan Gallery Cafe Torquay, 7 Lucius Street, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5UW. Click here for full details.
Wednesday 13th March at 7.30pm at the Quaker Meeting House, 48 Tor Hill Road
Torquay TQ2 5RT. The talk: “Pastoral Theology in the Catholic Church”
The speaker: Julia Beacroft, author of “Sanctifying the Spirit”
Every Thursday until 18th April – Lent Lunches at the Parish Hall of St Mary The Virgin, St Marychurch. Lunch only £4.50 – All proceeds to Charity of the week. Click here for full details.
Sunday, March 17 (All day) – Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, Paignton, TQ3 2RB Membership Explored Lunch – For those interested in becoming church members. For more details click here.
What’s Going On In Wellswood? – click here to see a full list of the many social events taking place in Wellswood throughout March.
Every Tuesday from 0930 till 1230. The Royal British Legion Office, 39 Church Street, Paignton is open. It is where ex members of the armed forces can receive help and advice. Appointments can be made by phoning 01803 555838, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every Tuesday & Wednesday (10:45 – 12 noon) – Lectures at Torquay Museum
529 Babbacombe Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 1HG – Lectures are free to TMSM,& cost £5 to Non-Members on the door! For more details click here.
2nd Wednesday of each month at the Quaker Meeting House in Torquay – Torbay Interfaith Forum meet. For more details Click here
PARKFIELD Youth services have a range of activities throughout the week for young people – click hereto see what’s on and when.
Are you running an event in the Bay? I am always looking to promote local events, big or small. If you have an event coming up, please email email@example.com so it can be included.
Saturday 16th March, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Saturday 23rd March, 11am – 1pm @ Paignton Library, Great Western Road, Paignton TQ4 5AG
Friday 29th March, 3pm – 5pm @ The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QB
It’s always best to book a slot to guarantee being able to see me. Full details of how to do this are on my website or you can call my office on 01803 214989, Monday – Fridays, 9am – 5pm.
You can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.