The much-delayed Ilfracombe watersports centre could be back on track after a further £1.5million from the Government.

How the new Ilfracombe watersports centre will look. Picture: NDCHow the new Ilfracombe watersports centre will look. Picture: NDC

The proposed centre at Larkstone in Ilfracombe harbour is one of 12 ‘shovel ready’ projects in the region to receive funding from the Government Getting Building Fund after a bid by The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.

The vision for the centre is a ‘state-of-the-art marine leisure hub’ at Larkstone Cove, with community facilities for watersports clubs with storage for boats, a slipway providing safe and easy access to the water along with a commercial café and views of the harbour.

Work had been set to start on the watersports centre at the end of 2018 but it was dogged by delays - North Devon Council said last year there had been ‘complexities’ and a ‘funding gap’ had developed.

The original funding came from the Big Lottery Coastal Communities Fund, but it is understood the council had been faced with potentially having to return the money.

Welcoming the funding announcement today (Tuesday, August 4), North Devon MP Selaine Saxby said: “The Government is putting forward a lot of investment to get Britain building again and it is difficult when we lack ‘shovel ready projects’ here in North Devon.

“The thought, however, of losing funding for a project, that should have already been well under way by now, does not even bear thinking about.

“I am delighted this project can now go ahead, with pace, and to see investment in Ilfracombe. Along with the Southern Extension moving forward and commitment from Openreach that Ilfracombe is part of its early Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) Rural Broadband Scheme I hope signals much more investment coming Ilfracombe’s way.”

The centre could provide up to 101 direct and indirect jobs and support up to 300 local businesses.

Karl Tucker, Heart of the South West LEP chairman, said: “This economic stimulus will help our plans to restart, revitalise and grow our economy.

“Each of the projects will support growth of the local economy and deliver the LEP’s outcomes. We welcome the Getting Building Fund to start new projects and accelerate projects across the Heart of the South West.

“We recognise that there are still many other important projects that we identified in our area that currently remain unfunded. We will continue to work with Government to secure future funding to further invest in our recovery pipeline.”

Lead Member for Economic Development at North Devon Council, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, said: “It’s fantastic news for the Ilfracombe Watersports Centre project that we have the opportunity to put together a business case to apply for an additional £1.5m funding for it.

“The business case needs to show that the new centre would provide job creation and spending on the project would be complete by March 2022. Our project team is now working hard to pull together all the information required by the end of August deadline for the business case.

“If we are successful with our bid and funding is awarded completion of the watersports centre would be a fantastic achievement and investment for Ilfracombe, as well as a welcome boost for the North Devon economy and tourism.”

The HoTSW bid also secured funding for The Burrows Centre at Northam. The bids will be subject to completing a business case by the end of August to show job creation.