A task force has been set up to address the closure of Appledore Shipyard in March.

It is estimated the closure, scheduled for March 15, will cost the local economy around £10million a year.

Some 199 jobs are at risk, with another 70 in the supply chain at risk, according to Torridge District Council.

The council said the owners are already actively marketing the site for marine use and from a planning perspective there is likely to be three years of ‘protected use’ for the site, which would restrict applications for any change of use during that time.

While some prospective bidders for the site have come forward and other opportunities are being pursued there are no credible bidders at this moment in time.

Now a multi-agency task force has been set up, and held its first meeting on Thursday in Bideford.

Representatives from other key organisations and influencers also attended and included officers and representatives from Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, Job Centre+, Chamber of Commerce/Recruitment specialist, Unite, GMB, Torridge District Council, Devon County Council, North Devon Council, Petroc, North Devon Manufacturers Association and South West Business Council.

The main agreed priority of the taskforce is to do everything possible to preserve the shipyard as a functioning maritime asset and at the same time achieve the best outcome for the place and the people affected.

A status report was given by South West Business Council (SWBC), who said Babcock reconfirmed that under current plans the shipyard will close and the premises handed back to the owners.

The Job Centre+ team reported that work was already underway to assist the workforce through any transition and Torridge Council will also provide support and advice in the coming months.

It is understood that Babcock has offered employees work at Devonport, Hinkley or Bristol with ‘disturbance’ and relocation packages.

Councillor Jane Whittaker, leader Torridge District Council said: “Our ultimate goal for the shipyard is very clear and that is to try and find a solution that will allow it to continue as a place of work beyond the planned closure next year.

“Ideally this will be linked to the maritime heritage the site and its workforce are renowned for but on a pragmatic level we will also be looking at contingencies for new start up’s that may wish to use the premises and opportunities to utilise spare space and diversify.

“The workforce will also be a priority to ensure that they receive the best advice and support and are signposted to any retraining or upskilling opportunities that can be organised for them.

“It is distressing to hear that some staff have understandably already made the decision to leave or are actively seeking alternative employment.

“All of this will be closely linked to additional work in quantifying and limiting the impact of any closure on the local supply chain, which will also be affected.

“Further lobbying at Government level will inevitably be part of the mix in all of this.”