Cash approval to kick start High Bickington building project

DEVON County Council's Cabinet met yesterday (Tuesday) to approve funding to kick-start the building of a �12million housing project in High Bickington.

DEVON County Council's Cabinet met yesterday (Tuesday) to approve funding to kick-start the building of a �12million housing project in High Bickington.

Councillors have rubber stamped an �850,000 contribution to the infrastructure costs needed to start phase one of the redevelopment of Little Bickington Farm.

The first phase for the site at the southern end of the village will provide 18 new homes; two workshops; a plant room for a woodchip heating plant; and other community facilities. Planning consent has also been secured for a new community building and sports facilities; a new primary school; a multi use games area; a health centre and allotments.

They were finally given the green light by planners at Torridge District Council in October following a six-year battle with central Government planning inspectors.

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The community-led project began in 2000 when Devon County Council's Farms Estate Committee decided it no longer needed the land and asked the parish council to consider how it could be used to support the village's long term sustainability.

The High Bickington Community Property Trust (HBCPT) was formed as a result and a planning application submitted in November 2003.

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The pilot project has since been recognised nationally as a "rare and innovative" example of a community-led development that offers a sustainable future for a rural community.

A report to the council cabinet said: "The community has worked incredibly hard and has shown great resilience in the face of numerous setbacks. Successive administrations of Devon County Council have shown sustained commitment to the project and its reputation both locally and nationally has been enhanced as a result.

"Agreement to release the agreed contribution to infrastructure costs will finally enable construction to begin."

HBCPT chairman David Brown, said: "This is a great step forward that will be warmly welcomed by all those members of our community who have recognised and supported the need both for affordable housing for local people and also the other essential community services that will be delivered by the project.

"The participation and support of both members and officers of the county council has been tremendous throughout our long struggle to achieve planning permission for the development and this latest demonstration of that support will be a critical factor in achieving long term success in moving forward our vision of creating a truly 'sustainable community' in High Bickington.

"We now look forward to being able to make a successful start on site in the New Year."

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