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