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Torquay is in the running to host the Conservative Party's spring forum next year, the Tory's chairman revealed yesterday on a whistle-stop visit to the resort. MP Caroline Spelman said the South West was due a conference visit from the party and faced opposition from only two other places.

If Torquay is chosen above Harrogate and Scarborough then the Bay could be in line for a one million pound boost to the economy thanks to an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 visitors, including the entire shadow cabinet.

Mrs Spelman told the Herald Express: "We have been thinking for some time that we should come down here for our spring forum. This year we're in Newcastle and we try hard to travel the whole country.

"Torquay is one of the preferred options, along with Harrogate and Scarborough. I think it would be really good to come to the South West. It could be the last gathering before the general election so it will be an exciting time and potentially a very important launch pad for policies."

A decision looks set to be made within the next month, she confirmed.

It has been predicted the Conservative's forum in Newcastle this spring will reap one million pounds for the economy there, while also attracting national and international media.

Mrs Spelman visited Torbay as part of a tour of the South West, incorporating Exeter, Okehampton and Bristol.

She promised a Tory government would see coastal resorts benefit from regeneration and said she realised a better infrastructure would be key to helping the resort prosper.

Mrs Spelman, who is the MP for Meridian, said: "I've certainly seen your infrastructure problems. I can see that a bypass is the critical thing which is going to be important to the regeneration of Torbay.

"We need to crack on with coastal regeneration in a number of places. It's a big problem that I don't think Labour have got to grips with. There's a history of negligence if you look around the periphery of the country.

"Torbay has a lot to offer but it needs fresh thinking, which it looks like the directly elected mayor system is encouraging.

"The bypass and regeneration are the most important things and having a directly elected mayor is one way of driving it forward."

Prospective parliamentary candidate Marcus Wood told Mrs Spelman how Torbay was now in gear and getting things done thanks to mayor Nick Bye's election, following a period of 'being in neutral'.

She advocated the system, saying it works when the electorate have chosen it and it drives forward changes because local authorities are no longer 'caught in coalition'.

Mrs Spelman also pledged a Conservative government would trust local government more than Labour, allowing them to free up money by securing bonds against their assets.

Courtesy of Herald Express 4 March 2008

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