A long campaign to save a much-loved Westward Ho! park has reached its conclusion.
Northam Town Council has officially taken ownership of the park in Avon Lane, having bought it from Torridge District Council (TDC) for £100,000.
The park had been subject to planning proposals which would have seen much of the land developed into housing, and campaigners long battled to save it.
There was success for the campaigners in January this year, when TDC agreed to transfer the site for it to remain a community facility.
Mayor of Northam, Councillor David Chalmers signed the documents which finalised the purchase.
He said: “The Westward Ho! campaign group have been amazing in making such a powerful case for the park to remain a public space for everyone to enjoy, running a petition which attracted more than 3,000 signatories.
“The Friends of Westward Ho! Park raised funds and brought the community together in creating a wonderful space.
“They have created a sensory garden, raised vegetable boxes, and planted colourful herbaceous borders. There is now additional seating and volunteers even operate a sports equipment box which offers free use of racquets, balls, and mini golf clubs.
“It is a huge tribute to the campaign team and to all the volunteers too numerous to mention that the park is now saved for everyone to enjoy.’
The purchase has been made possible with the help of a loan from the Public Works Loan Board to cover the cost and provide for future improvements.
Westward Ho! Councillor Nick Laws was among those fighting to keep the park. He said: “Our park has been saved, thanks to a tremendous community effort. My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who supported and worked so hard to win the day.”
Fellow ward member, Councillor Claire Hodson, added: “This marks the opening of the next chapter of our ‘incredible journey’ to deliver the inspirational project for Westward Ho! Park. Now the work really begins!”
The issue of the park had been rumbling on for several years. In 2017 campaigners lost an appeal to designate the land as a formal village green.
A 3,500-strong petition was then handed to the district council, but it still would not budge on plans for the site.
In August 2018 Atlantic Racquet Centre submitted a planning application for 10 news homes, tennis courts, a community building and a play area on the site.
The application was withdrawn in July 2019 after Torridge District Council agreed to halt development proposals and look at transferring the land ownership.