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Torbay 'must set sights on hi-tech jobs boost'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

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The future of Torbay – the heart of the English Riviera – lies in attracting new technology and manufacturing businesses, not solely tourism.

That warning was issued by Tim Godfrey, from leading accountancy firm Bishop Fleming, after Torbay Council announced its pivotal "Landscape for Success" proposals.

Mr Godfrey said the long-awaited Kingskerswell bypass must be used to "attract new high-quality employers" rather than just "provide an easier commute for Torbay residents to travel to jobs in Exeter".

He said: "Torbay must, and can, attract those new employers. We just need to ensure that there is sufficient high-quality work-space development to accommodate those new IT and manufacturing employers.

"We certainly provide the quality of life they are seeking for themselves and their employees.

"The last thing we need to see is the long-awaited link-road providing high quality employees who live in Torbay commuting to Exeter. We need that link road to attract employers for those people to move their business to Torbay. This is a massive opportunity for Torbay to recognise that its future need not just be about the low-paid seasonal jobs in tourism but the council must grab this opportunity by changing its apparent obsession with tourism and ensure that there is workspace available for potential new employers by the time the new link-road is delivered.

"Tourism will always be an important element of Torbay's economy, but it must not be the Bay's only offering."

Mr Godfrey said if the area had "any hope of escaping its reliance on low-wage seasonal jobs in tourism" it had to use the link road to attract high quality jobs.

He argued: "The alternative is that Torbay remains a 'sad-case', with every job governed by the tourism sector's low-wage formula, and providing a commuter-base for higher skilled people to travel to Exeter.

"We need those higher skilled people to find jobs in Torbay, and that requires that Torbay's council uses the opportunity of the new link-road to deliver what the employers of those skilled people need."

Torbay Council unveiled its 20-year plan in September describing it as "exciting, bold, positive and eye-catching".

It includes a range of projects including a new harbour extension for Torquay, the northern arm breakwater at Brixham, expansion of primary schools new sports facilities at Clennon Valley and a watersports centre of excellence.

It also outlines new business space in west Paignton and north west Torquay to make the most of the travel benefits from the new South Devon Link Road.

Councillor David Thomas, Torbay's deputy mayor, stressed the area was "very much open for business".

He added: "Our positive approach to securing high quality development will result in more than 5,000 new jobs in Torbay over the next five years.

"Torbay has seen recent significant increases in business interest and new mortgages, which is partly due to the South Devon link road and its potential to bring real benefits to the Bay.

"The emerging new local plan looks to get the balance right between growth and protecting the valuable environmental assets that make the Bay attractive to businesses, tourists and residents.

"We believe the plan has got the balance about right, but we're assessing the feedback from recent public consultation."

Mr Thomas said the plan "rightly" included tourism but also highlighted the "need to nurture other sectors".

He said: "The council is very proud of its work to help existing businesses with free business support programmes, where Outset Torbay has created over 150 new businesses, and through the innovation centres, which have helped generate over 300 new jobs."

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  • iseveryidused  |  November 23 2012, 1:58AM

    I very much doubt, that any councillor or civil servant will come up with any real solution in attracting new "Hi-Tech" firms to the region. It has taken nearly forty years of procrastination to start building a road so the area doesn't grind to a halt in the summer. The same area that pretty much closes in the winter (because, funnily enough, it's a summer resort). Any new business's first criteria is going to be the cost of premises. And one would assume, when most people start a business, they do so, close to home. One can incentivise large established business's to re-locate to another area by tax breaks, subsidised rental or some other type scheme, but we are in a massive recession, I don't honestly think this is a realistic option currently. If I could control anything, that would be to slash costs, reduce business rates, encourage large retailers like Ikea, John Lewis, Next etc. This is what most people want (despite all the objections and red tape they face). The Willows for example, pretty much packed every weekend, come this Christmas, it will be like hell on Earth, just like every other big Mall, or out of town shopping area. If you ask me, the old Nortel site is crying out for a similar development... Funnily enough, I work within the technology sector and we remain in our Council owned/developed property mainly due to cost! The rent is low due to the fact they were so ill-conceived!

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  • nicold  |  November 22 2012, 3:23PM

    Forget Torquay becoming high-tech...we've been left out of BT's fast Broadband plan!

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  • reiwruwiou  |  November 22 2012, 12:23PM

    I think that Tim Godfrey has nailed this one 100%. Obviously tourism plays a major roll, but we need to add more strings to our bow so that the local economy isn't devastated by the next "Foot and Mouth" outbreak, etc... We also need to break free from the "low wage" culture to attract gifted professionals to the area, and thus employers.

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  • alangwheeler  |  November 22 2012, 12:14PM

    My view is Hi-tech is certainly the way to go. We only have to look at the likes of Google's hi-tech roundabout district in London or the start-up culture that exists in and around Facebook's US district. I am sure that we have many highly talented people in Torbay with ideas and visions just bursting to get started. If we rely on and wait for the big companies to come to the bay I think we may have a very long wait, by-pass or no by-pass. With the latest tech craze being Crowd-funding, I am sure there is plenty of scope within the bay to help establish several new tech start-ups. You only have to look at the likes of YouTube which started in an office above a pizza shop or Facebook which was started in a University dorm room to realise that it doesn't taken very much to become the next big thing. No doubt several key council members will be putting their money on large corporates coming the bay over the next five years and I am sure they will enjoy attending many well funded business meetings with the same in the hope they can persuade them to move to the bay. I feel that perhaps the answer we could all be looking for may well be right under our noses. Please excuse me now as I have some parking meters to go and count and a withering Palm tree to attend to............

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