Levelling Up Brixham, Paignton and Torquay
Rounds one and two of the Levelling Up Fund were disappointing for South Devon. Despite two strong bids that focussed on the local strengths of fishing and photonics, we were unsuccessful. But undeterred by these temporary setbacks, many of us have continued to talk up the area. Whether it be through Chamber of Commerce meetings, careers fairs or ministerial visits, there is much to talk about when it comes to the South Devon economy.
So, every one of us who has flown the flag for the area should be very pleased indeed that Torbay will be on the receiving end of £20m through the new Levelling Up Partnership. Not to be confused with the Levelling Up Fund, this funding is set to make a huge difference across the area. Recognising the importance of working with local stakeholders to identify projects and causes that are deserving, it seeks to bring groups together to work on what is best for the area.
Already work is underway, with the steadying hand of Jim Parker bringing together the relevant groups to discuss what can be done across the area to bring growth, development and new jobs. Unlike other grants and funds that are promised but never materialise, this money has been ringfenced and Torbay will be receiving at least £20m.
How this fund is broken down is yet to be decided, however, it would be sensible to focus on at least three key areas.
The first is Brixham Harbour. The opportunities are immense and the increase of catch that is being landed in Brixham is only demonstrating the need for more space. Any allocation of resources to Torbay should certainly be directed towards the expansion of the harbour as well as to support fishing fleets and boats of all sizes. To do so would be to send a message of confidence in the fishing sector and to help it grow. Considering there are now fourteen apprentices studying at South Devon College Marine Academy at Noss-on-Dart Marina, the future of fishing looks bright.
Second is Brixham town centre. For too long, the town centre of Brixham has been underutilised. It needs to be revamped and plans need to be brought forward that consider the need for parking, commercial space and aesthetics. Local groups have already worked on some interesting plans; however, these need to be formalised so an official proposal can be brought forward.
Third is the EPIC centre. We are, believe it or not, a technology powerhouse within the UK. Our photonics sector is creating extraordinary high-tech products that are being used the world over. We need to do more than pay lip service to this sector, so investing in the businesses and the spaces which will allow them to grow is essential if we are to diversify our local economy and creating the jobs of the future.
The money has been allocated and the plans are being formulated. We must be of single mind to ensure that ground is broken and projects delivered that will make a real and last difference to the area. The Levelling Up Partnership offers us the chance to rejuvenate town centres and old buildings, innovate businesses, and inspire future generations through job creation, all while boosting our local economy. We have no excuse but to deliver.