Further calls have been made to replace a covenant restricting development on the former village square site in Westward Ho!
Torridge District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee discussed the covenant on the land the council sold to Westward Living in 2014, which states it can only be used for a hotel with commercial use on the ground floor.
Westward Living’s Alan Smith had previously offered the council a set fee of £120,000 to remove the covenant that restricted development.
He said unless the size of the hotel could be increased, it was not viable for one to be built, but councillors voted by six votes to four to reject the offer when it was discussed on September 7.
However, in a meeting on Tuesday (September 29), the overview and scrutiny committee voted to recommend back to community and resources that the covenant is replaced with a new one which would restrict development to any form of commercial use, rather than just for a hotel.
If the recommendation is accepted, it would be subject to the agreement of the landowner, and would require a new valuation of the site to be carried out and a new offer to be made to vary the existing restrictions.
Cllr Dermot McGeough, who made the call-in request, said: “The £120,000 for it to be lifted, would be better off in our coffers for the benefit of the wider community.
“We cannot keep spending money without replenishing the pot and this is a chance to get the money in the pot.
“I don’t see how this will affect the public of Westward Ho! as the hotel has already been approved, if they want to do it.
“By releasing the covenant, we can get money for the council, and I don’t see how the public benefit if we keep the covenant on.”
Cllr Simon Newton questioned what the reason for keeping the covenant on was.
He said: “What is the justification for saying that only a hotel can be built there rather than any other development? The market will decide what is needed, together with the plans committee, and they will decide if it is appropriate for any development there.
“It is bad to impose regulation and restriction when it is not needed. This stinks of people trying to get control of something they’ve sold, but want to keep control of it. I cannot see we need to insist a hotel is still built there.”
Cllr Tony Inch proposed that as some of the concerns appeared to be about ‘tall flats’ being built on the site instead, that a new covenant restricting the use to any form of commercial development, rather than just a hotel, be imposed.
His proposal was backed by eight votes to one, with two abstentions, and will now go back before the community and resources committee for them to make the decision as to whether to lift the covenant, or to stick with their original decision.