Schooner's future put in doubt again

REGENERATION plans for Bideford s eastern riverbank will mean the end of the lease of Brunswick Wharf by the group supporting the historic schooner Kathleen and May, which is moored alongside. Torridge councillors on Monday decided that when the lease to

REGENERATION plans for Bideford's eastern riverbank will mean the end of the lease of Brunswick Wharf by the group supporting the historic schooner Kathleen and May, which is moored alongside.

Torridge councillors on Monday decided that when the lease to the Kathleen and May Trust runs out at the end of this month it will be allowed to expire.

The riverside wharves have been classified as being of strategic priority in Bideford's regeneration plans and it is felt that any development scheme could be compromised by having to incorporate third party interests.

Similarly, tenants of the council's lock-up garages on the adjacent Pollards Wharf are to be told that they will be served with three months' notice when the council is ready to move forward with plans.


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Future development would also incorporate the council-owned car park on Clarence Wharf, the three wharves in total providing the potential of 2.5 acres of riverside development land.

The decision inevitably brings fears for the future of the historic schooner Kathleen and May, which was brought to the town by local businessman Steve Clarke 12 years ago as what he hoped would become the centrepiece of a maritime attraction.

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But council leader James Morrish said the decision would not affect the mooring of the vessel alongside the wall. He said he would like the Kathleen and May to stay in Bideford.

"The Friends of the Kathleen and May have worked hard and I understand the ethos of supporting the history of the vessel and the maritime world of Bideford," Mr Morrish said. "Any plans very much include the Friends."

A maritime theme was one of the visions for the area, also perhaps a restaurant and housing. There could be many things, he said.

These were ideas for the future which would be progressed through the Joint Delivery Plan. There would also be consultation on what the public wanted to see there.

But they needed to have a clear site for those looking to regenerate it, he said.

"What Steve Clarke does for Bideford is superb. He is passionate about the local community. But we have to treat everyone the same."

Mr Clarke told the Gazette that he would need to discuss with council officers exactly what had been decided before he could comment.

Friends of the Kathleen and May were meeting to discuss the matter last night (Tuesday).

Spokesman David Hall said they hoped this was not necessarily the end and would be having discussions with the Joint Delivery Team over the long term future of Brunswick Wharf.

Whatever happened, they would continue to support the Kathleen and May in any way they could, he said.

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