The leader of Torridge District Council will be standing down in May after eight years as a councillor.

Jane Whittaker was first elected to Torridge District Council (TDC) representing Northam ward as a Conservative in 2011.

She was voted in as leader in 2016 – something she says was never her intention when she first became a councillor.

She joined the council with a career background in health and social care and said: “I was just transferring what I had always cared about for the last 25 years into my role as a councillor.”

Cllr Whittaker, who was born and bred in the Northam area, will be giving up her role to spend more time with her partner Geoff, but says she is looking forward to seeing new faces around the table.

Looking back on her time at the helm, Cllr Whittaker said she felt TDC had come a long way, and that the council was now ‘future proof’ thanks to its Transforming Torridge programme.

This included the modernisation of the council’s Riverbank House HQ in Bideford, which has resulted in bringing staff together under one roof.

One of Cllr Whittaker’s proudest moments during her time as leader has been to introduce the New Homes Bonus community grant schemes.

“The New Homes Bonus came into being in 2011, but it wasn’t until I became leader that we started to dish it out,” she said.

The scheme was introduced in 2016, and so far more than £1.2million has been dished out.

“It was my baby really; it’s just been a fantastic service,” added Cllr Whittaker.

As well as successes there have been some challenges, and Cllr Whittaker said she is ‘deeply worried’ by the closure of Appledore Shipyard.

Another challenge has been the ongoing saga to find a tolerated trespass site for travellers, but Cllr Whittaker said the demolition of derelict buildings at Bideford Cattle Market had been a triumph.

“It would be lovely to find the money to do something with that site, but it needs to be something special,” she said.

“I have always loved the idea of a velodrome. We want to strive for something exciting which no one else has got.”

Although Cllr Whittaker is not standing in the May elections, she will still be keeping a close eye.

“It’s been a great journey, and I’m very fortunate,” she added.