Six month delay for Bideford wharf plans?

The East-the-Water wharves site is the subject of a major development brief.

The East-the-Water wharves site is the subject of a major development brief. - Credit: Archant

Town council seeks to make much-debated East-the-Water site a ‘community asset’ and stymie residential development plans.


- Credit: Archant

A bid to impose a delay on development of the East-the-Water wharves in Bideford has sparked heated debate.

On Thursday the town council agreed to try and register the site as a ‘community asset’, which would give it six months to try and take on the site, with a view to making it public open space.

The move was proposed by councillors David Brenton and Peter Christie and passed by six votes to three.

Torridge District Council is the landowner and is negotiating contract terms with its preferred developer, with a view to seeing ‘residential, retail, commercial and tourism related uses’ on the site.

But using legislation under the 2011 Localism Act the town council can apply to get the site listed and if successful, will be entitled to make its own bid for the land, although this does not give it a right to buy.

This has already attracted criticism from local businessman John Emms, who told the Gazette the town was ‘hardly in a position to say no’ to the jobs the development would bring.

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“Why when we have lost so many jobs in Bideford do we not want to create an area that will produce them?” he asked.

“As a businessman I am so fed up with the ‘nimbyism’ that I’m now questioning whether I want to carry on investing my time and money in the town.”

Cllr David Brenton said they had proposed the move because the wharf site was a community asset and valuable to the town because it was on the riverfront, an area crucial to Bideford.

“If you have expensive apartments, they will have the ability under environmental law to complain about noise from the harbour and potentially close it, as has happened at Littlehampton,” he said.

“Port activities and habitation don’t mix and the ports always lose out.”

Mr Brenton said they felt few jobs were evident in proposals already suggested – lock up shops, a restaurant and a pontoon type marina.

He said the town council would seek to see the site tidied in the first instance and then work towards a ‘phase two’ that would create a ‘centre of excellence’ for maritime trades and commerce, as well as a restaurant.

The town council will now submit a community asset nomination following its staff and finance committee on May 2.

A TDC spokesman said the council could not comment further because it had received nothing officially at this time.

They said legal negotiations with the preferred developer had reached the point where the council’s community and resources committee would hear another report on May 7.

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