Paignton is a toilet now

Living in Paignton, Torbay, Devon
Living in Paignton, Torbay, Devon

Paignton is a toilet now. Some residents are friendly enough, the state of most properties is not that bad for a predominantly low economy area, however it is completely spoiled because most of its main roads are adjacent to several social housing estates. I’m not trying to demonise social classes, it’s a fact that most of the problems originate from people who live in these areas.

There is no visible police presence past 9pm these days, beyond the odd cruiser attending emergencies. This means lots of boy racers tearing up the road, drunks / junkies and pill heads staggering home from pubs or the usual toxic relationship couples screaming at each other into early hours. There is a constant cacophony of antisocial behaviour on the streets after 1am, often directly outside residents windows (particularly corner properties for some reason).

Houses are often randomly targeted by passing opportunists looking for drug money. Some years are worse than others but criminal activity typically peaks around November / December and into the first month of a new year. Some of these are crimes are perpetuated by non-locals from up north. Frequent uninvited visitors to properties and vehicle theft / vandalism, garden shed burglary are typically predictable around these months.

How grim is your Postcode?

Bonfire night and New years eve is often accompanied by seemingly endless fireworks let off by pyrotechnic obsessives into the early hours – the festivities begin 2 weeks prior and end a full 3 weeks, long after annual celebrations are supposed to subside. Necessity to climb your kitchen roof and retrieve still-burning Chinese lanterns may be a requirement.

A generational minority of societies dregs really do spoil it for a majority in this case, otherwise it would be a fairly nice town. It is routine to expect wing mirrors kicked off your car, I recall a poor old dear, who lived opposite us, having to chain down her plastic garden furniture every year. Because there is inadequate parking and every family has an average of two cars, disputes between local neighbours are common. Everyone without a driveway has their patch marked out in front of properties, they think no other road users should be entitled to park on these. Selfish lazy types who are fortunate enough to have their own allocated parking do not even use their own spaces, causing more congestion in the town.

Gangs of feral street kids who frequent key areas of the town, think nothing of climbing on peoples garden walls, or randomly throwing rocks at properties. There is no concept of boundaries or respect for peoples property. Either way, most of them end up involved in more serious crime by the time they reach their teens – so said dysfunctionality is probably trivial by comparison. There is a general sense that everyone in this area is living a very unhappy life, no joy, no laughter, just grimacing faces, antisocial behaviour, austerity and dirty looks exchanged. There is little opportunity left here since the rise of the internet and death of the high street.

My wife and I tried hard to make our first home in Torbay a happy one, we tried to grit our teeth for 7 years ( I am local to the west country for 40+ years myself). It was near impossible. There is this typically underclass attitude that if someone owns something nicer or makes an effort with their home, it needs to be destroyed or stolen. Then there’s the fact that the entire area is full of dodgy tradesman and canvassers from up North. Persistent windows, guttering and roof repair reps who harass you for months with door knocking cold calls. Combined with Jehovah’s, your doorbell will need frequent battery replenishment.

Once someone has actually vandalised your property, none of these companies are available (not that you would want to use their services anyway). It is very difficult to find anyone honest, skilled in repairs, who won’t rip customers off. There is a minefield of con men and bad contractors to negotiate past while gathering quotes. Life is just so much more unnecessarily difficult than it should be in Paignton.

Councillors [allegedly] mismanaged the town for years, cutting emergency services, allowing new housing in an already overpopulated area. With no real Infrastructure in place to support growing demand for basic services, queues and waiting times increased. I never saw my own doctor again after 2003, he was just never available to me!

Living there were some of the most miserable years of my life. I developed health issues due to this area, which incidentally cleared up within a few months once I had moved away with my family. I hate the fact that I gave this seaside town part of my earnings and my loyalties for years, just because I grew up there. I see in hindsight just how terrible it was/is now. It almost took a toll on my relationship too, thankfully we were strong enough to hang in there until we could afford a nicer location.

While it is tempting to inevitably think ‘this occurs everywhere’, another unfortunate causality of modern culture – Paignton is supposed to be a quiet tourist resort. It is not supposed to be a Northern industrial town. I am not posting this as some moaning old codger, I’m only in my early 40s and usually quite tolerant / realistic… but when you are educated and schooled somewhere with roots, when you watch loads of facilities shut down, your friends move on and a population change, it is both depressing and tragic to experience.

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