Ilfracombe seafront scheme could ‘miss out’ on cash

Joseph Bulmer

North Devon Council’s �1.5 million earmarked for the town, but where will it be spent?

A �1.5 million pot of North Devon Council cash originally destined for Ilfracombe seafront might now be spent elsewhere in the town.

The district council’s previous administration set aside the money to pay for seafront enhancement, but although the new council has still pledged the money for the town, councillors have decided to look again at where it should be spent.

Council Leader Brian Greenslade told the Gazette the money had been pencilled in for the seafront development and the executive committee had agreed it would still be “ring fenced” for Ilfracombe.

But he said the council had a received a couple of approaches regarding other projects for the harbour or seafront area which would almost certainly need North Devon Council investment.

“We have drawn breath on it for awhile so we can investigate these potential projects,” he said.

“My early understanding of both is if either came off the economic gain would be more significant for Ilfracombe. I think the council has to go through a robust exercise, with partners, looking at the merits of all the investment opportunities, before making a decision about where it invests its only available capital.”

COMBEbusiness, which represents businesses in Ilfracombe, Combe Martin and Woolacombe, has said it is “alarmed at the decision to cancel or defer the proposed seafront improvement scheme.”

It said the scheme – which included proposals to landscape the area and create a “caf� culture” setting, as well as an exotic “biodiversity garden” – had been all set to go ahead after designers had drafted plans and the council carried out widespread public consultation.

An earlier council report had likened the garden to Ilfracombe’s own “Eden Project” following proposed plans put together by consultants LDA.

In response to a call on how much had already been spent, Mr Greenslade said a total of �46,500 had been used to develop the plans from the Joint Delivery Team budget. He said this was from six sources – including SWERDA, the county and both district councils plus Ilfracombe Town Council.

“If North Devon Council rejects this scheme, it demonstrates that the views of business and the community count for nothing and instantly undermines the authority of its own officers who lose all credibility for future consultation,” said COMBEbusiness chairman Robert Zarywacz.

“COMBEbusiness believes that there has been sufficient public consultation and that it is now time for North Devon Council to act.”

Ilfracombe district Councillor Paul Yabsley, who had been one of the leading co-ordinators of the seafront enhancement scheme, said there were “no other significant regeneration projects on the go.”

“I personally think they have pulled the project because they didn’t want to go ahead and now they’re just dressing it up as having a review,” he said.

“�1.5 million won’t deal with the harbour and I don’t think there’s anything else that would have a significant impact on the economy of Ilfracombe.”

Mr Greenslade said there was nothing to stop the plans being continued in the future, should the conclusion be that the sea front scheme was the most beneficial for Ilfracombe’s economy.