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Tackling Torquay’s anti-social behaviour problem

Sunday, 19 May 2024 08:57

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

£20million in government cash earmarked for local projects

The man whose visit to Torquay persuaded him to make the ‘left-behind’ resort one of the first places to get new government help says anti-social behaviour is top of his hit-list.

Towns ‘Tsar’ Adam Hawksbee said Torquay had obvious ASBO issues and added: “Clearly something needs to be done.”

He was talking as it was confirmed that the resort was one of 55 towns across the country chosen to receive a £20million ‘endowment’ from the government’s so-called ‘levelling-up’ coffers.

The government has set aside £1.5 billion to be shared among towns it believes have been left behind in terms of investment. Torquay is in the first tranche of recipients.

The aim is to deliver long-term projects including regenerating high streets, protecting local heritage and cracking down on anti-social behaviour.

Mr Hawksbee, who is a deputy director of the centre-right think tank Onward, has been visiting towns up and down the country and reporting directly back to the Prime Minister and the secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove.

Representatives from Torquay’s Town Board travelled to Downing Street to hear the news that Torquay had been selected for a handout.

Mr Hawksbee said his visit to Torquay had been ‘really interesting’. “The anti-social behaviour challenge in Torquay is really significant. It is one of the more challenging ones that I have seen,” he said.

He said Torquay’s challenges centred around people who were homeless, possibly just out of prison, and involved in drugs. He said the Castle Circus area of town was particularly affected.

Answers, he said, could include more co-ordination with police, better CCTV and improvements in street design and furniture.

For young people, he added, an answer could be providing more activities, such as sport. “Something like that would make sure they have something productive to do with their time,” he said.

“We need to have some progress for those individuals who are really vulnerable and find themselves in a difficult place, susceptible to drug dealers and other sorts of crime.”

He said it was important to help people find homes and get them away from substance abuse.

“Those are the sorts of things I imagine the town board in Torquay is going to focus on.”

Each of the towns in the programme has a ‘town board’ with an independent chairman appointed by its local council. The local MP serves on the board, along with the police and crime commissioner and representatives from the local community.

By August the board will have to come up with a ‘10-year vision’ and a ‘three-year plan’ for how it will spend the money, which will be drip-fed at the rate of £2million a year.

Work could begin on local projects in the autumn.

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