After a busy Easter Week in our bay it is time for my latest update.
Easter Weekend saw glorious weather bring many visitors to our bay. It was good to see beaches full of those enjoying the sun and seeing the natural beauty of our bay which we can sometimes take for granted being lucky enough to live here all year round.
Easter for me started with the St Marychurch Walk of Witness as I joined other Christians marking the walk Christ made to his place of Crucifixion. Given the events of the night before in Londonderry, where some sought to drag Northern Ireland back to sectarian conflict, it was particularly apt to see all denominations taking part and stops being made at the different churches on the way. A visible message of unity in prayer and hope.
Last Saturday saw me undertake two visits to mark a campaign getting more live saving defibrillators installed across Paignton and Preston, more on this below.
It was an early start on Easter Sunday to join the congregation of Paignton Parish Church for their Sunrise Service on Paignton Sands. Our bay looked beautiful as the sun rose in the east and the sea quietly lapped at the shore. Like many readers of these updates I have memories of time spent there with loved ones who are no longer with us, especially my Mother who loved her visits to Paignton Beach as a child and later with me in my younger years.
Monday evening saw me head off to Parliament for my first full week in office as Minister for the Constitution. In between many introduction meetings and briefings, I prepared for my first speech in response to a debate, on Tuesday. As it was St George’s Day, I decided to stick with my tradition of wearing a red rose to mark it, becoming (I believe) the only MP to speak in the house on the day whilst doing so.
Wednesday saw the most significant moment of my week as Cabinet Office Ministers, including me, faced questions in the House. Despite having spoken hundreds of times in the chamber since my election in 2015 I did feel a slight nervousness whilst waiting to be called for the first time to speak from the Despatch Box.
The subject of my first question was Lords Reform, with more following on support for disabled candidates, work to combat fake news and electoral registration. You can watch the exchanges on my first question by clicking here.
On Thursday I headed off from Torquay to spend a day in Wales with my Wales Office Ministerial “Hat” on, this included a meeting with the Welsh Government Minister who deals with Brexit and a visit to Tata Steel. The highlight though was my visit to 614 Squadron, an RAF Reserve Unit based in Cardiff, which also recruits across much of the South West.
Today saw me back at home in the bay. I met Shared Lives South West at my office earlier to hear more about their model of care which was recently rated as Outstanding by the CQC.
Finally I would like to thank those who sent their best wishes following Hazel’s Operation on Wednesday. Her knee had been giving her pain for some time and was affecting her walking, as update readers may have noted when they saw her out and about. The operation went well, and she is home this evening, ensuring I had plenty of supervision when cooking for us both earlier!!!
This week’s update is below and includes: Where is Your Polling Station?, European Election Poll Cards, Neighbourhood Plans, TUFC Parade, Debenhams, Asda & Sainsbury’s Merger Blocked, Waitrose to Become Flats?, Torbay’s Youth Speak Up, Loan Shark Back Before The Courts, CQC Report on Meadow Lodge, Lighthouse Development Exhibition, Government Borrowing Falls, Voting System Debate, 109 Calls Out For Torbay Lifeboat, and finally……..A Barrel In The Water?
Where is Your Polling Station?,
On Thursday (2nd May) voters across our bay will go to the polls and elect 36 Councillors to Torbay Council.
Following a Referendum in May 2016 the Elected Mayor’s Post is being abolished, therefore there will be no election for this post. The outgoing Mayor, Gordon Oliver, is not standing for election to the Council.
The 36 elected Councillors will select one of their number to be the new Leader of Torbay Council at the Council’s AGM after the election. The Leader of the Council will remain accountable to Councillors throughout their term of office and unlike the current Mayor can be dismissed by them.
I run these updates under a no party-political point scoring rule so will not get into the details of the political arguments here. Yet it is important voters have their say on the services which make a difference in our bay such as Bins, Parks, Beaches, Planning, Parking and Regenerating Our Town Centres. Local Councillors do not take decisions on national issues or vote on matters before Parliament.
Polling Stations for the local elections will be open between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 2nd May. You can check the location of your Polling Station and the list of candidates standing in your area by clicking here. Do check as boundary changes mean many voters, including myself, may find they have a new Polling Station to visit this Thursday.
European Election Poll Cards,
Several residents have been in touch asking if the date for the local elections has changed having received Poll Cards this week for the European Elections on Thursday 23rd May.
The date for the Council Elections has not changed, the European Elections will be held on a separate day as they were until 1999.
There is still time to register to vote in the European Election. Just click here to be taken to the relevant sections of the Electoral Commission Website.
Given Torbay and the UK voted to Leave the EU in June 2016 it is frustrating to say the least these elections are going ahead to a European Parliament those elected may never actually sit in. If the votes I cast over recent months in parliament had been in the majority we would already have left the EU and these elections would not be taking place. Yet as we are still in the law means they must take place.
Whilst I won’t use these updates for party political points there is one vote I will be very clear how update readers should vote in, the Neighbourhood Plans Referendums.
On Thursday voters will be asked to approve Neighbourhood Plans for Torquay, Paignton and Brixham (Which covers the wider peninsula as well). Each Town will vote separately with a majority required in each town to pass their respective plan, therefore votes in Paignton do not count towards the plan for Torquay and vice versa.
The plans reflect a balanced way to develop our bay inspired and put forward by the local community. I would therefore strongly urge update readers to Vote Yes in the Neighbourhood Plans Referendum.
The plans will give 168 local green spaces a greater level of protection and ensure the priorities of local communities are considered when Planning Decisions are being made in the future. Voting against will not send a message on Brexit, change a national policy or annoy any politician at Torquay Town Hall, it will just produce a negative outcome for local people.
You can find details of your local plan by following the links below:
Brixham and Peninsula (Includes Churston)
I was saddened to read the news a formal Civic Welcome for the promotion winning Gulls had been blocked on the ground of “pre-election purdah”.
Whilst I am not a member of the same political party as Torbay Council Chairman Iain Doggett, I would have had no problem with him donning his Chain of Office and formally congratulating them all at the Town Hall this week. The Chairman’s role is ceremonial not party political.
Whilst it is right Council resources cannot be used by those standing for election, there are usually exemptions for Civic Roles where an event’s timing is not determined by political events.
I hope after next week’s election a formal recognition of TUFC’s achievement on behalf of the whole bay can be organised.
The future of Debenhams has been much in the news recently, but there was some respite this week for our bay.
A list of 22 stores to close after Christmas 2019 was announced, but Torquay’s store was not one of them. You can read more on the Sky News website by clicking here.
The next door Torwood Street Development, plus the massive investment being planned into local hotels by the Fragrance Group may well produce the trade needed to keep this anchor store open. Yet a key challenge for the 36 Councillors elected next year will be reshaping our Town Centres for the future.
Asda & Sainsbury’s Merger Blocked,
The Competition Watchdog this week blocked a proposed merger between two of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains.
ASDA and Sainsbury’s both have stores, within close proximity of each other, in Torquay and Paignton. Hence when this merger was first proposed I raised concerns in Parliament about what this could mean for local jobs and competition. I did not find reassurances stores a stone’s throw from each other would be kept open if owned by the same company at all convincing.
Other retailers such as Iceland, Lidl, Aldi, M&S, Morrisons and Tesco have a presence in our bay, but only Morrisons has a large dedicated supermarket site. This merger could have seen 4 of the 5 large supermarket sites in our bay belong to one company. Whilst proposals had been made for the merged company to sell sites close to each other, such as in Paignton, the regulator decided these were not enough.
You can read the full story on the BBC news website by clicking here.
Waitrose to Become Flats?,
Torquay’s Waitrose Supermarket in Plainmoor will sadly close within a matter of weeks after the retail chain sold its Torquay and Teignmouth sites to a value retailer.
There has been some speculation in the media this week the site could be turned into flats. Whilst this would be a strange move for the supermarket concerned, which has not bought sites for this purpose before, it would also require planning permission from Torbay Council.
Whilst not impossible it may convert, sites with planning permission for a larger retail store are worth a considerable amount of money as it is a difficult permission to secure. It therefore appears much more likely a new supermarket will open on the site in the not too distant future.
Torbay’s Youth Speak Up,
I was fascinated to receive a copy of a report produced by Healthwatch Torbay, whose aim was to explore the experiences of children and young people (0-25) living here in the bay.
The idea was to find out what young people really feel about life here, what they love, what they don’t, and how they think things could be better for them.
The data was collected from just over 1900 young people, meeting them across Torbay at outdoor events, visiting both primary and secondary schools, and through voluntary and community groups working with young people. Their views were gathered though a widespread survey but also through social media.
You can read more about this on the Healthwatch Torbay website by clicking here.
Loan Shark Back Before The Courts,
Illegal Money lenders are a scourge who seek to exploit those in desperate need of money, often using illicit tactics to seek repayment of amounts far in excess of the original loan.
One serial offender who has operated in South Devon was before the courts again recently, receiving another prison sentence. You can read more by clicking here.
Lighthouse Development Exhibition,
The Lighthouse in Paignton has been a derelict eyesore on Paignton’s Seafront for too many years but plans for a major redevelopment will be announced this week.
It is now owned by the Fragrance Group who are currently redeveloping the Park Hotel site next door. The Lighthouse is being used as the builder’s service yard for this project.
The Fragrance Group will be unveiling their plans for the Lighthouse at a Public Exhibition being held at the Paignton Club on Wednesday 1st May 2019 from 2:30pm till 5:30pm.
I will look forward to seeing their plans and will include a link to them next week.
Voting System Debate,
As mentioned above this week saw my first contributions in the House of Commons as a Minister.
My first response to a debate on behalf of the Government came on Tuesday. The subject was Proportional Representation for the House of Commons.
Parliament’s speaking rules for such 90 minute debates mean backbench MPs get to speak for the first hour, with no guarantee of an individual MP being called, then the final 30 minutes is reserved for the 3 front bench speakers. These are the Govt Minister, Main Opposition Spokesperson and the SNP.
You can read my remarks by clicking here.
109 Calls Out For Torbay Lifeboat,
RNLI figures have revealed the volunteer crew of Torbay Lifeboat were called to the lifeboat station 109 times in 2018.
The RNLI Torbay crew covers a large sea area with the station’s all-weather and inshore boats. The most distant call out was on October 16th, juts after 10pm, when the crew of an all-weather boat was called to a 15 metre fishing boat with a fouled propeller 28 miles east of Berry Head.
Our local Lifeboat crews volunteer to put their lives on the line in the service of others, sometimes heading out into seas all others would avoid. All of us owe them a debt of gratitude for the work they do to keep us safe.
and finally…..A Barrell In The Water
As the sun shone down on our bay last weekend visitors to Torquay Harbourside got to see several large jellyfish basking in the waters.
Barrel jellyfish are common in British waters and the largest creatures of their type in our seas. They are typically sighted in late spring. They have a stinging tentacle but are considered harmless to humans. You can see some photographs of them in the Harbour on Devon Live by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
‘I happen to be here’ Artizan Gallery 7 Lucius Street. An exhibtion of works by artist Jeremy Diggle. Runs until 4th May. for more details visithttps://www.art-hub.co.uk/jd19
Saturday 27th April General Knowledge Quiz at 7pm Preston Baptist Church.
Bring your own beer or wine, glasses, and nibbles . Different quiz categories. No entry fee. Bring your friends and make up a team or come on your own and make new friends.
Saturday 27th April St George’s Celebration 7pm for 7:30pm at St Matthias Church Hall.
An evening of with dinner and entertainment, with all proceeds going to Friends of Rowcroft, Tickets are £15 and Dress Code is Patriotic. All enquires and bookings contact Sheila Hart (01803 297656) or Elaine Biden (01803 390222)
Friday 3rd May – Torbay Film Club are showing “In Love With Alma Cogan” (Cert 12A, 2012) at St Matthias Church Hall on – Doors open at 1900 and the film will start immediately after a very short AGM at 1930. Non members very welcome £5.50 on the door. For more details click here
Open Days at Torbay Country Bowling Club (Oldway Mansion)
The Club has been running OPEN DAYS at the start of their new summer season and the final sessions are at 1pm on Saturday 4th May, 10am – 1pm on Sunday 5th May, 10am – 1pm and Saturday 11th May 10am – 1 pm. All invited to come along and give it a try. Please wear flat bottomed shoes and the club will provide Bowls and Coaching and make you feel most welcome.!!!
The club is situated in the grounds of Oldway Mansion – A beautiful setting !! They would like to welcome any new members who would like to try out this wonderful sport. They are a very friendly club and are fortunate enough to have TWO greens so you will be able to play pretty much whenever you want !
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 email@example.com.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org so it can be included.
Friday 3rd May, 3pm – 5pm @ AGE U.K., 12 Dendy Road, Paignton TQ4 5DB
Saturday 11th May, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Friday 17th May, 3pm – 5pm @ The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QB
Saturday 25th May, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, 62 Old Torquay Road, Paignton TQ3 2RB
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 email@example.com or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.