The charity Wings South West is ‘optimistic’ that building work will commence this year as it rallies to raise last of £1.5million.

It’s been seven-and-a-half-years in the making, but work could begin on Bideford’s Bridge Centre this year.

Wings South West director Dr Paul Bowser told Bideford Town Council on Thursday he was optimistic about the build starting later in the year.

Planning permission for the community centre at College Park in Abbotsham Road was granted by Torridge District Council in March last year.

But as part of the planning conditions, the charity must prove by July it has secured the £1.5million to be able to build the first phase.

Dr Bowser said with all the pledges so far – including £200,000 from the town council and pro bono work – it was about £300,000 short.

Councillor Doug Busby asked Dr Bowser how much longer the town council would need to ring-fence the money before the charity called on it.

He said: “There are lots of us who would dearly love to use that money on capital projects for the benefit of the whole community right now, rather than a bit later.”

But Councillor Tony Inch said: “I think I speak for all councillors that a project like this on this side of the water where we haven’t got a community centre at all is something we need very, very much indeed.

“We need this for our town, for the young people and for the older people as well.”