Now is the time to realise the ‘fantastic’ harbour potential after ‘30 years of broken promises’

Campaigners are hoping for a fresh start after ‘30 years of broken promises’ on the proposed multi-million pound redevelopment of Ilfracombe harbour.

In 1985 the Harbour Development Group proposed an outer breakwater with tidal turbines, a new Swansea ferry berth, fishing quay and pontoon marina as part of major plans to regenerate the area.

It also suggested an international education centre to link in with the tidal energy project, plus a luxury hotel at Larkstone, possibly on the swimming pool site.

Three decades, several district council administrations, endless public meetings and an estimated £500,000 on feasibility studies later, similar ideas are still on the table but little has changed.

Now the group of businessmen and individuals with a connection to the harbour is hoping a new district council administration and a new MP will help push the plans forward once more.

“The potential here around the harbour is just fantastic,” said group spokesman Alan Kift.

“After 30 years of inaction by previous administrations we feel it is time to bring it to the top of the agenda.

He said Ilfracombe also had to take advantage of the announcement by the Government of a new designated tidal energy site located between Lynmouth and Combe Martin.

The group’s proposals were drawn up by consultant Peter Hunter in 1985 and Mr Kift said a public meeting at the old Pavilion in Ilfracombe drew a huge response.

“We thought about 400 people would turn up and we had about 700 – they decided to take a vote on whether they wanted the harbour regeneration and it came out as 650 in favour,” he said.

Things went quiet in the 1990s but in May 2005 a much-hailed Brokerage Day packed full of ‘good news’ saw the Gazette report North Devon Council had committed to handing over harbour land and assets to a trust-style body which could ‘plough resources back into development of a breakwater and marina’.

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones commented: “Without a doubt we need to be looking at more investment for Ilfracombe, and I made this case strongly to the coastal communities minister Penny Mordaunt when I invited her to Ilfracombe before the election.

“The key thing now is that everyone with a stake in the town works together to try and get the best outcome, and I will push hard to try and get things moving.”