Development given the go-ahead subject to tree protection scheme.

Miranda Cox, Eric Birchall and protestors mounted a roadside campaign against the felling of trees at Moreton Woods in Clovelly Road, Bideford in January.Miranda Cox, Eric Birchall and protestors mounted a roadside campaign against the felling of trees at Moreton Woods in Clovelly Road, Bideford in January.

PLANS for a Premier Inn, McDonald’s and Brewer’s Fayre restaurant have been approved by Torridge District Council – in principle.

Councillors met this afternoon (Thursday) to discuss six separate applications for the 70-bed hotel and restaurant, an 85-cover McDonald’s restaurant and drive-thru and a number of signs and fascias

The committee approved the proposals, which promise 120 new jobs in Torridge, subject to the applicants submitting an acceptable landscaping scheme.

Planning officers initially recommended refusal of the application due to concern that a scheme had not been submitted by the developers protecting the trees on site.

A tree preservation order put in place by the council protects the older, more valuable trees lining the roadside, whilst the commercial crop was felled earlier this year.

Losing the woodland was also the main concern for objectors to the proposals, with a petition submitted at the eleventh hour showing 480 signatures against the development.

But despite 49 letters of objection and not one letter of support, councillors were keen to see the plans go ahead.

Councillors heard the Bideford and District Chamber of Commerce were in full support of the application and the jobs it would provide.

Paul Phipps, president of the chamber of commerce, could not attend the meeting but a statement was read on his behalf by former president John Emms.

In his statement, Mr Phipps said the development would provide much needed jobs, with opportunities for full time, part time and shift work.

“The management training scheme for school and college leavers by national and international companies in invaluable,” he said.

“And when this area is in chronic need it would be suicidal to lose this opportunity.”

Councillor Kathy Murdoch echoed these views, saying she was worried Bideford would lose the opportunity if councillors delayed their decision.

“We’ve got this multinational corporation which wants to develop in Torridge,” she said.

“They don’t have pots of money to develop whenever they want.

“I’m a little bit concerned about delaying because that pot of money might not be there anymore.”

Maria Bailey, planning agent for Whitbread, said the company had been looking for a site in Bideford for a hotel for some time.

“Whitbread were at the stage where the only option seemed to be to add extra facilities in Barnstaple to prevent the trade being lost,” she said.

“In a public consultation held earlier this year more than 80 per cent of people wanted this development to happen.

“The company is committed to working with the town centre, just as Atlantic Village is with its Discover Bideford shop.”

Yesterday evening, people took to Facebook to air their support for the proposals.

A debate began on The Bideford History Page Facebook group with nearly 200 people commenting on a post about the applications.

Sara Roose posted on the page urging people to email Torridge in support of the application and ‘start fighting’.

She said: “Believe it or not it’s now at risk of not happening due to 49 letters received opposing it and not one backing it from the public.

“That’s you and me and everyone who lives and works in this town.”

Despite the amount of comments the Facebook thread, or any mention of letters received in support of the application last night, were not mentioned during the meeting.

Councillors voted to approve the plans in principle and delegate the final approval to planning officers once a landscaping scheme was submitted.

The vote for the Premier Inn and Brewer’s Fayre was unanimous. Seven members voted in favour of the McDonald’s, with one abstention.

Councillors also voted to approve plans for fascias, signage, an eight metre high totem ‘M’ sign for the McDonalds and a six metre high Brewer’s Fayre sign subject to the approval of the hotel and restaurants.