Councillors lend support to plans for modernising facilities at Ilfracombe Harbour.

Ilfracombe fisherman Scott Wharton says investment at the harbour is very welcome.Ilfracombe fisherman Scott Wharton says investment at the harbour is very welcome.

A project to provide new fishermen's stores at Ilfracombe's busy harbour has taken a step forward today (Tuesday).

At a meeting of North Devon Council's executive, members agreed to support a project to improve storage facilities for local fishermen. It will provide five covered stores, a net loft, ice store and storage tank for used oil and is likely to cost around £750,000.

Led by North Devon Council, with the support of the Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), Ilfracombe Town Council and the Ilfracombe Harbour Board, the project has been developed from extensive consultation with local fishermen.

There are 25 fishermen working from the harbour, with an additional 27 working on commercial leisure vessels.

It is hoped the new building will help to safeguard jobs in the harbour and make daily operation of the fishing boats more efficient, particularly in bad weather.

The design of the building will also improve the appearance of the quayside, brightening up a dark area of the harbour, making it more attractive to visitors.

The first phase of the project has been completed, with designs already drawn up and a survey carried out to check the cliff stability at the rear of The Cove.

A bid for Coastal Communities Funding (CFF) for 75 per cent of the costs and a bid to the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) for the remaining 25 cent have also been submitted.

"This is a very worthwhile project and the designs that have been drawn up are really impressive," said

executive member for economic regeneration, Councillor Malcolm Prowse.

"I sincerely hope that the funding bids we've submitted are successful as this project could have significant benefits for the local fishing industry and make The Cove a more attractive area for locals and visitors."

Chairman of the Harbour Board, Councillor Geoff Fowler, adedd: "This proposed project has now become a necessity in terms of the working part of the Cove. We now have larger commercial boats operating from that area, which causes extra conflict between motorists, pedestrians and fishing equipment. Purpose built stores would alleviate much of this problem and resolve many of the day-to-day health and safety issues for the Harbourmaster and the Board."

Ilfracombe fisherman, Scott Wharton said investment in facilities for the fishermen was very welcome.

"The design of the building is impressive and will bring the fishing fleet into the 21st century, allowing safer and more efficient working practices," he said.

Subject to planning consent and the success of the funding bids, the construction phase of the project is expected to begin in October 2014.