Plans to build a new £1.8million visitor centre at Northam Burrows have been changed at the 11th hour in favour of a ‘more modest’ scheme.

Torridge District Council (TDC) has lodged planning applications to refurbish the existing centre at the country park, and build a new single-storey cafe and toilet block with outdoor seating.

The current centre was said to be nearing the end of its useful life when plans for a £1.8million, two-storey replacement were approved in 2018, but it will now be refurbished instead, with the building given fresh cladding, insulation and roofing.

Works on the new visitor centre were suspended when the coronavirus pandemic struck, and TDC said the subsequent lockdown meant the initial plans could not be achieved in the timescale needed for its funding.

A design and access statement for the new scheme said it was a ‘more modest development’ than the two-storey build.

The current Northam Burrows Visitor Centre.The current Northam Burrows Visitor Centre.

Property and procurement manager Adrian Redwood said: “We have been working hard with all of the agencies involved to identify a solution that can be delivered within the remaining time available.

“The only viable option available to us comprised a modular solution for the café space that can be manufactured off-site over the winter months and delivered to site for the 2021 season.

“This change has unfortunately necessitated a new planning application for the revised scheme, but has been fully supported by the Coastal Communities Fund who have approved the change to enable the project to be delivered within the original funding time scales required.

“This endorsement not only ensures that the original outputs are maintained, but also enables us to continue to make use of the grant funding available without incurring additional cost.”

An artist's impression of how the new Burrows Centre at Northam will look.An artist's impression of how the new Burrows Centre at Northam will look.

A design and access statement for the modular cafe said: “The extant permission is for a two-storey building that would have made a bold landscape statement. The revised proposal is single storey and will be far less noticeable in the landscape.

“It is lower than the existing visitor centre and will be partially hidden from view behind the existing and proposed mounding”

The refurbished centre will see an ‘enhanced exhibition space’ which can be expanded into an education and meeting room used by schools and groups. A new changing places toilet is also proposed.

An economic statement from Torridge District Council said: “This development is not just about updating and extending the Northam Burrows Centre, which currently offers very limited and dated facilities for visitors, but also encouraging increased and year-round visits as a new activity hub for nature-based tourism, for visitors to explore the unique burrows and the internationally recognised high-quality environment of the wider area.”