Bridge Centre plans given go-ahead

The plans showing the proposed Bridge Centre.

The plans showing the proposed Bridge Centre. - Credit: Archant

Plans for a £5 million community centre in Bideford were approved by Torridge District Council on Thursday.

BIDEFORD charity Wings South West celebrated on Thursday after plans for its £5 million community centre were approved by Torridge District Council.

The project planned for land off Moreton Park Road has been years in the making and received the full support of councillors, despite concerns raised about a lack of green space.

Now the charity has 17 months to raise the funds needed for the first phase of the centre, which will be in the heart of a brand new housing development.

Hundreds of people pledged support for the centre when it was initially included in a planning application by housing giant Redrow for new homes at Moreton Park road.

But the centre was removed from the planning application last September after planning officers raised concerns over the viability of the plans.

The charity was left in shock over the decision but continued to press on with its plans, working with planning officers to lodge a separate application.

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Speaking at the meeting Paul Bowser, director of Wings, said: “The support of the public for the centre has been overwhelming.

“This was initially through a public consultation in October 2011, and then we received more than 420 letters of support and 90 per cent-plus approval via independently conducted telephone interviews with 200 people living adjacent to the site.

“This concluded with a 1,000 signatory petition urging officers and councillors to support the Bridge Centre.”

If Wings cannot raise the funds in the next 17 months, the land will revert back to a planned area of open space outlined in Redrow’s successful application to build 232 new houses on the site.

But Councillor Mervyn Langmead said he was concerned about losing the green space if the centre was built.

“I’m not against this development in principle,” he said.

“But my main concern is the designated open space areas for children.”

Councillor Kathy Murdoch said she agreed with Cllr Langmead’s points but moved to approve the application.

“For me it’s about weighing in up,” she said.

“Looking at that use of open space compared to the incredible opportunities young people are going to have if this goes ahead.”

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the centre, which would create 25 new jobs and hundreds of volunteer opportunities.

The centre has received international support and pro-bono work pledged, including from the designers of the Sydney Opera House.

It hopes to provide a variety of aspects for the community including sporting facilities, a community shop, a restaurant and a theatre.

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