Monday, August 04, 2008

Why the slump won't stop the Mayor.

There has been some public worrying recently about the likely effects of a serious property recession on the mayoral vision for Torbay.

No doubt the current recession and property crash will damage investment in the short term; businesses like individuals are finding it hard to borrow money for property purchases and the signs are that this situation will get worse in the months ahead. How lucky therefore that so much of the existing development is from large businesses who are more resiliant in a recession; and most of which is nearing completion. Others will not be so lucky and I do expect some high profile victims to surface over the coming months - there are several largeish housing developments completing around town and one wonders how long some of these small property companies can last if no-one is able to buy their expensively completed flats and houses.

Property development is famous for it's slow progress - Docklands redevelopment in London was on the drawing boards for nearly 20 years before a single brick was laid at Canary Wharf. It was long-term political thinking that allowed the time and space for a major redevelopment to occur that is only now reaching maturity - having survived through three major property downturns and the bankruptcy of the original developers.

The whole point about having a mayor in the first place was to give Torbay some long term vision after decades of short-termism had robbed the bay of inward investment. The mayoral vision is not supposed to be about next week, next year or even the next five years but about declaring a destination for Torbay that may come about in a decade or two- in other words long after any current downturn has long gone. And in stating, clearly, where he wants to take Torbay in the future our mayor has given business and their investors the confidence to come forward with ideas and plans of their own - some of which happened quickly like the Balloon and the Beefeater, others which may take longer such as the Carey Arms and Oldway, some which will take much longer such as the development of the Riviera Centre and a few that may never come to fruition at all.

Where a recession may impact more immediately is in the plans by the town hall to release capital by the sale of land assets, at the moment developers are stone cold on buying land to add to their stock and this definitely will impact on the availability of capital receipts to spend on some of the much prized regeneration ideas that have been put about.

In the meantime it is worth sparing a thought for the thousands of mostly self employed craftsmen and tradesmen who have found their work drying up. Lets hope for their sake that this recession is short and shallow.

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