Bideford has become the first town in North Devon to be awarded Coach Friendly Status.

Bideford Town Centre Partnership representatives with the new Coach Friendly Status. Picture: Graham HobbsBideford Town Centre Partnership representatives with the new Coach Friendly Status. Picture: Graham Hobbs

The 'Little White Town' had previously lost some coach visits because the parking is quite a way down the main car park, but that ahs been turned around thanks to hard work by Bideford Town Centre Partnership (BTCP).

It means from now on the town will be on the preferred destination list for coach drivers and should increase visitor numbers and the amount of money spent in the town.

The Town Centre Partnership includes representatives from Bideford Town Council, Torridge District Council and Devon County Council as well as local businesses, the police and organisations such as the tourism association.

The coach friendly accolade was awarded by the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK and a wide range of measures had to be out in place to make it possible.

These included clearer signage, trimmed trees and an incentive package for drivers made possible by the contribution of vouchers from many of the eateries and traders in Bideford.

The partnership has also promised improved surfacing of the coach park, better transport provision to the Pannier Market and to find a quiet space for drivers, along several other measures.

John Burch from the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK visited Bideford first in 2017 and gave the partnership a long list of improvements that needed to be made before being nominated for the special status.

On presenting Graham Blight, chairman of BTCP, with the award, Mr Burch said: "The Coach Friendly scheme hopes to attract more coaches to Bideford, to increase the footfall in the town. The new status could mean a potential increase of thousands of visitors a year for Bideford.

"The work that has been done to secure this award is encouraging and with the driver's voucher scheme and free coach parking, together with the great attractions for visitors in Bideford, we are hoping for great success."

Mr Blight added: "It has taken a lot of hard work, and this is the sort of project that BTCP can progress.

"It would have taken forever without us all sat around one table and finding ways to make this happen - we have a variety of great skill sets on the partnership.

"On this occasion we have to thank Mike Ford from the Torridge District Council economic development team for steering this potentially difficult project, as well as thanks to the support given by Devon County Council for the signage. I think this is a fantastic achievement."