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Charity shocked as developers scrap groundbreaking community centre plans

08:00 05 September 2012

Archant

Internationally recognised project scrapped after discussions between housing giant and council result in crushing blow for charity.

"Wings has had no official representation from TDC planners to advise that the Bridge Centre does not have anything but their full support."

Wings South West

PLANS for a groundbreaking community centre in Bideford have been shattered after the proposal was scrapped by developers.

Housing giant Redrow Homes submitted an outline proposal for the Bridge Centre among an application for 232 new houses at Moreton Park playing fields in partnership with the charity Wings South West earlier this year.

But in a move which took the charity by complete surprise, the proposal for the centre was scrapped following discussions with Torridge District Council’s planning officers.

It will be a crushing blow for the community after the Gazette reported in January the charity had received an overwhelming amount of support for the project on a local, national and international level.

Torridge District Council received 420 support postcards from local residents and in April Bideford Town Council’s planning committee recommended the application be approved.

Despite securing more than £600,000 of pro bono work from key players, including the designers of the Sydney Opera House and One Hyde Park, the developers shelved the plans in favour of a quick decision, said Dave Green, Torridge District Council’s development enabling manager.

Mr Green said the council had been unable to establish sufficient details on the funding of the project or how accessible it would be to the public.

He claimed the housing application relied on the Bridge Centre to compensate for the lack of affordable housing or playing field provision on site, and this was why it was important to establish the project’s public accessibility.

Mr Green said: “While the authority has repeatedly explained to Redrow that if they wish to pursue the Bridge Centre element of their application they would need to allow the authority more time to further investigate its viability and accessibility to the general public, Redrow has taken the view that they would like a quick decision on the application and therefore have now removed the Bridge Centre element from their application.

“The authority now has no choice but to determine the application as amended by the applicant and as such the application will have to proceed on this basis.”

The council said it was prepared to work with the charity to find an appropriate site and establish the specific funding and access for the public as part of this proposal.

But Redrow hit back at Mr Green’s comments, claiming the development was in fact halted by the council calling the proposal for the Bridge Centre unviable.

Ben Leather, a senior land manager at Redrow, said: “The Bridge Centre proposals are enterprising and exciting, and we are disappointed that they cannot be progressed further.

“The Bridge Centre development would have more than mitigated for the community benefits provided by affordable housing and playing fields given its potential range of facilities.

“Our feedback from local residents demonstrated they supported our proposals.

“We have always sought to work closely with Torridge District Council and will continue to do so, but they have been clear that they do not regard the Bridge Centre proposal as viable.”

In a statement released by Wings, the charity said the comments from the council and Redrow were a ‘complete surprise’ and did not tie in with any of the meetings held with TDC.

The charity said: “An independently produced five year business plan has demonstrated the long term sustainability of the Bridge Centre and identified potential capital funding for the project.”

“Wings has had no official representation from TDC planners to advise that the Bridge Centre does not have anything but their full support.

“At the moment the only explanation is that there has been some sort of misunderstanding as councillors themselves were unaware of officers’ actions.

“As such, Wings remains hopeful that with appropriate on-going dialogue and good will on all sides, any queries can be addressed and Wings looks forward to working together with the people of Torridge, Torridge District Council and various partners in the successful delivery of this much needed facility.”

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