Brunswick Wharf developer given grant money to fix quay wall

North Devon Gazette

Developers are to receive almost £800,000 from a government grant to help revitalise Bideford’s Brunswick Wharf.Â

The cash is from the Land Release Fund, which is designed to subsidise projects that might otherwise be financially unviable.Â

Following a vote at Torridge’s full council meeting this week the money can now be released to Red Earth Limited, a Tiverton developer, to reimburse them for improving the quay wall and riverside walk. Any money not used will be returned to the fund.

Brunswick Wharf is a historic site on reclaimed land that contains the former Brunswick, Queens, Steamer and Clarence Wharfs.Â

The quay and the riverside walk remain the only parts of Brunswick Wharf owned by the council following sale of the land to Red Earth last month. Â

In March this year, the developers received full planning consent for a £22.6 million project to build 85 homes, five design studios, several retail units, a café and restaurant, alongside 103 private parking spaces and 45 public parking spaces.Â

The planning permission stipulated that Red Earth would commission public art and improve the quay wall. It is hoped the project will create 64 full-time equivalent permanent jobs and 240 full-time equivalent construction jobsÂ

It brings the transformation of the 2.1-acre site, which has been mostly derelict since the early 1990s, one step closer after years of attempts. It was originally sold to Barnstaple-based Oceanside Developments in 2013 but put back on the market again in 2016 after plans with the developer fell through. Â

However, not all councillors are happy with the project or the £800,000 of public money now going to Red Earth.

Councillor Peter Christie, who voted against granting planning permission in March, said the grant was ‘basically a gift to the developer’.Â

The development will contain no affordable housing, as Red Earth argued it would make the project financially unviable.Â

Councillor David Brenton said that the decision to sell the land was a ‘giveaway’ to the developers. He described Brunswick Wharf as ‘a vast piece of land which could have been used for housing for our people’.Â

Summing up the developer’s commitment to fund a community art scheme, cllr Brenton said ‘big bloody deal!’.Â

Council officers argue that with rising construction costs the development may be unviable without the Land Release Fund grant and there was a risk the site might be left undeveloped without it.Â

Speaking before the meeting, leader of the council Ken James (Independent) supported using the grant funds, he said: “I am pleased to see progress with the delivery of the Brunswick Wharf proposal after so many years and wait for the various benefits it will bring to Bideford.Â

“The grant awarded to the council for the quay wall will help to ensure that the scheme is expedited and that the council’s asset is renovated to a high standard.”Â

Work is expected to begin next year and be completed by 2025.