Westward Ho! villagers are celebrating a victory after councillors voted to halt plans to develop a much-loved park.
More than 100 people packed into Bideford Town Hall last night (Monday, March 4) to show support for the village park off Avon Lane.
Torridge District Council’s (TDC) community and resources committee meeting met to discuss plans to transfer ownership of the park to Northam Town Council instead of building new houses and tennis courts on the site.
Despite being recommended to refuse this, councillors listened to the impassioned speakers, and decided to halt its plans for the park’s redevelopment.
The park debacle has 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 into the district council, but it still would not budge on its plans for the site.
In August last year Atlantic Racquet Centre submitted a planning application for 10 new homes, tennis courts, a community building and a play area on the site. The application is yet to be determined.
In the end, members voted 9-2 that ‘the asset transfer application by Northam Town Council is revisited and the development proposal is not progressed.’
Westward Ho! councillor Nick Laws, who has been fighting to keep the park, told the Gazette he woke up this morning (Tuesday) and thought he had been dreaming.
“There was a tremendous amount of passion from the speakers at the meeting, it was just wonderful,” he said.
“Councillors felt that passion; I think they didn’t think anyone would attend after the last full council meeting.
“I only gave people two days’ notice but they turned out in full force and one-by-one the councillors were turned.
“I think this is a victory for Torridge and I hope they will now decide to put a play strategy in place. The children need this.”
Councillor Laws said he hoped now TDC would turn the park over to Northam Town Council to manage.
Park campaigner Phil Hodson said he felt the arguments put up by the community about the ‘substantial negative impact’ helped to sway the outcome.
He added: “It is encouraging that councillors have finally recognised the strength and determination of the community.”