A ‘tatty’ seaside town in Devon is about to be restored to its former glory thanks to a huge regeneration project.
Work began last week on the demolition of an old concrete car park in the town of Paignton which marks the start of the project.
It has been on the cards for Paignton for many years but Covid, the cost-of-living crisis and other issues meant Torbay Council faced problems getting it going.
The derelict Crossways shopping centre was being pulled down only for the council to find nobody wanted to rebuild on the space.
Deputy council leader Chris Lewis (Con, Preston) says the work is part of an ambition to ‘deliver priority capital projects’ and bring in more private investment to give the bay’s town centres a new lease of life.
It comes after the once-thriving town made headlines in the summer for being ‘overrun with feral children’.
Shopkeeper Mr Hassan, who has worked in the area for 20 years, said: “At this end of town, I don’t think Paignton has a future. It is neglected up this end of town. I’ve been here for around 20 years now and we have a good regular trade but tourists wise, it doesn’t bring them up here.
“I think they should turn Crossways into a car park. Flatten it down and turn it into a car park because every holidaymaker that comes to this town comes down this road, whether that’s from Totnes or Torquay. Turn it into a car park and be done with it.
“Shutting Torbay Road is a nightmare. Why not let motorists go straight down? And I don’t know what that red and blue road is all about, or what it’s supposed to be, It’s just all a nightmare.”
Another resident, who has also lived in the town for more than 50 years is planning on moving away from her home because the level of anti-social behaviour plaguing the town has left her feeling in danger in her day-to-day life.
She said in the past she would have been able to go out any time of the day or night now avoids certain paths because of homeless problems in the town.
She said: “We’ve lost all of our big shops and it’s hard to get what you want here now. All the shops are for the teenagers now, not for the older people. Paignton doesn’t feel as safe as it used to be. I use a path near the railway and for all the years that I have lived here, I could have gone out at any hour of the day or night and feel safe. But now, you wouldn’t walk down there after seven in the evening because there are people who are homeless. It’s a different kind of Paignton that it used to be.
“Torbay Road used to be the place you would come. I used to bring my family, who are from London, to eat but all of the best places have been sold on who catered good food and now it all seems to be burgers and fast-food for tourists. I used to meet my friends for lunch here, but now Paignton lost that bit of class. Whenever my son visits and asks where we should go to eat, I say we should go to Totnes or to Newton Abbot.
“Everyone used to just park along the road to use the shops, but now you just by-pass it. It’s a shame because everybody used to know everybody and we used to know the owners of these places.”
In the last few years, the council has built a new Wickes store and a Premier Inn hotel but its building days are done.
It will work with a major regeneration partner and enable specialist developers to come in and take on its big capital projects. But it will not be taking on building projects itself.
The bay’s regeneration projects have the potential to transform three town centres (Torquay, Paignton and Brixham) in the council’s footprint.
Although the economic conditions are far from ideal right now and there is a great deal of trepidation in the market about making big commitments to long-term projects, the council is confident.
A regeneration partner firm, which is reportedly a ‘household name’ is already on board, despite the council not yet naming it.
It will take the council’s hand as it spends the government largesse to change the face of the three towns.