Friday, March 1, 2013
A closely tied vote at last night’s council meeting (Thurs) will see Bideford Town Council approach Torridge to negotiate acquiring the site.
PLANS for a new development on the East-the-Water Wharves could be replaced with a public open space if Bideford Town Council has its way.
The council is hoping to put a stop to Torridge District Council’s negotiations with its chosen developer to build cafes, restaurants and apartments on the site.
Councillor David Brenton, who put forward the motion alongside Councillor Peter Christie at the full council meeting last night (Thursday), said ‘luxury apartments’ was not what the people of Bideford wanted.
“If we can’t afford to do it now the next generation might be able to, but once we have built on it, it’s gone,” he said.
Instead, the two councillors are hoping to be able to knock down the vacant buildings currently on the site and create a public open space.
The space would include a walkway along the river, places for people to sit and the possibility of putting a unit in to sell teas and coffees.
“The value of the site to Torridge is basically zero, because the cost of developing it would be huge,” said Cllr Christie.
“We don’t have to put down a new surface or anything, so it wouldn’t cost much to turn it into a community space.”
Councillor Anne Brenton said the people of Bideford would ‘never forgive’ the council if the land was sold cheaply to developers.
She said: “Are we on this council to save tax payers’ money and put it into a pot, or are we there to put the money we’ve acquired from tax payers and do something wonderful and innovative with it?”
But some councillors were sceptical of the idea, claiming asbestos on the site and an unstable sea wall could have severe financial implications for the council.
Councillor Roger Vanstone suggested the council approach Torridge for a lease on the site instead of looking to purchase it.
He said: “We would be buying a liability; for the removal of the asbestos we’re talking £50,000 at least.
“And when the derelict sea wall falls down in two years time, who is going to repair it?”
Councillor Tony Inch said he didn’t know where the other councillors had been for the last six years when consultations took place on the site.
“If they had been there they would have brought up these concerns before, during the consultations,” he said.
“We’re six years down the line now, we’re nearly at the end of the process and we’re going to give this contract to somebody.
“It’s not just luxury flats, there will be employment on the site; there will be restaurants and there will be a walkway past the river.
“This is what Bideford needs and a lot of people say to me, hurry up and do it, just get on with it.”
But for some councillors, the ongoing debate became too much.
“To be quite honest I am sick of all of it,” said Councillor Mervin Langmead.
“All this talking we have done is just a pie in the sky.”
After a long debate, councillors agreed by a majority of nine votes to six that they would approach Torridge to negotiate acquiring the site.
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