WORK on a £250,000 design plan containing the nuts and bolts for the next major development of Ilfracombe Harbour looks set to begin in the next few weeks with construction of a southern quay perhaps no more than two years away. The town s best asset no

WORK on a £250,000 design plan containing the nuts and bolts for the next major development of Ilfracombe Harbour looks set to begin in the next few weeks - with construction of a southern quay perhaps no more than two years away.The town's best asset now has a harbour board to govern it and plot the course of regeneration in the years ahead - the harbour will in effect hold its own budget, gain the benefit of revenues from parking and other fees, but be accountable to the executive committee of its owner North Devon District Council, which has to ratify decision. A long and detailed process to set up the harbour governance has consumed many hours of Harbour Master Rob Lawson and council officers' time, as well as many councillors and people with connections to the harbour.The board - four councillors and four independent members with sound credentials in the business and maritime world among others - met for the first time on Wednesday to discuss the next step in the process towards turning the harbour into an attraction which will benefit not only the town but the whole of North Devon.Chairman and district councillor Paul Yabsley told the Gazette work on the design phase of a southern quay scheme conceived by marine consultants and contractors Halcrow (pictured here) would begin in the next few weeks.And he said for the next financial year, it was in the proposed district council capital budget to invest £2 million in Ilfracombe Harbour, although it had to be stressed that was not agreed by the council as yet."The avenue being explored is the scheme developed by Halcrow," he said."It will provide a commercial fishing quay, slipway and a pedestrian bridge from the old quay head to the Cove."That will be the basis for the design work which is now going ahead to develop the scheme up to something which can be built and delivered.He said from the consultation of users and then the design process, the board was confident there would be amendments to the scheme as it now stands.The South West Regional development agency has refocused its efforts on Ilfracombe and the northern coast from North Cornwall to West Somerset - the "northern arc" as it is known - and will be paying half the £250,000 cost for the design work, with North Devon District and Devon County Councils meeting the rest."They are focussing on two towns in particular, Bideford and Ilfracombe," said Mr Yabsley."They are going to establish a full time three man development team to work on regenerating northern Devon."In Ilfracombe the harbour is the catalyst for regeneration and when we do this southern quay it will send a signal to the private sector and give them the confidence to get involved."Look at Barnstaple, it now has the confidence of major investors following the creation of major public infrastructure with the new downstream bridge."Alongside Mr Yabsley, the harbour board members are district councillors Colin Wright, Malcolm Wilkinson and district and county councillor Sue Sussex. They serve alongside business expert Robert Down, Ilfracombe harbour user and boatman Andrew Bengey, master mariner Captain John Joint and Hilary Lindley-Dore.There will be quarterly board meetings throughout the year, which the public may attend.Acting as the link between the board and the public is the Ilfracombe Community Harbour Forum, which includes a number of harbour users representing different interests such as angling, commercial boats and tourism, as well the Harbour Master and various local councillors.