Exciting things are happening in Appledore - Credit: Graham Hobbs

OPINION: Exciting things are happening in Appledore - Tim Jones

Tim Jones

I have just been briefed on a fantastic programme which will be transformational for Appledore.

This is a project that has been inspired by Torridge District Council, who took the bold but inspirational decision to acquire Middle Dock a number of years ago.

Since then, the Council have been working on new initiatives for this. Finally, progress has been made and a summary of the project is as below.

The Scheme comprises the redevelopment of the dock into the proposed Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre.

This will establish Northern Devon as a global-leading Research & Development innovation space for clean maritime futures.

It will feature cutting-edge research and industry partnerships from the Centre for Future Clean Mobility (University of Exeter) and the University of Plymouth’s Marine Institute.

The Centre will draw into its flexibly-designed spaces the best innovators from academia and industry, and will take the lead in producing new skills for clean maritime.

It will act in collaboration with neighbouring Harland & Wolff Appledore, in harness with the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and will offer the private sector high quality spaces to research, develop and commercialise, stimulating growth.

It will also directly support Net Zero ambitions for the Celtic Sea Floating Offshore Wind developments and beyond. Ultimately this aims to position the UK at the heart of the international Floating Offshore Wind market, a sector responsible for 2.5% of global emissions.

The Centre will act as an anchor for the sector in northern Devon, generating regional business opportunities. It will also link with the Plymouth Freeport.

Exciting things are happening in Appledore - Credit: Graham Hobbs
Exciting things are happening in Appledore - Credit: Graham Hobbs

What is particularly inspiring about this, is that it will be much more than a group of new buildings. This will generate a change in mindsets and, as a result, bring benefits to the local economy.

This is much needed because GDP per head in Torridge is only £17,493 compared to £26,765 in North Devon. This change is brought about through the benefits of clustering.

Having a visible demonstration of success at the heart of the community, in a region (Northern Devon) which has never previously had any university presence, will be transformative, coupled with a level 3-7 marine skills pipeline co-developed in response to the proposal by Petroc (which includes the South West Institute of Technology’s Advanced Engineering facility) and the University of Plymouth.

Petroc students will be able to utilise the centre’s seminar rooms when their courses need access to the waterfront, and the Centre will be engaging with local schools to benefit from future use as well.

Crucially the centre will also seek to break the constraints of the low aspiration, low wage economy cycle illustrated.

The approach is backed by the head teachers at Bideford College, Appledore School, The Northam Federation, West Croft School, St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, Bideford and St Helen’s Church of England Primary School, Abbotsham all wholeheartedly support these proposals.

The proposed uses for Middle Dock / the Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre are not a leap into the dark, but stem from current economic activities, including those being undertaken by the Biosphere Foundation, and looking to capitalise on future developments in the region which have been proposed by the Crown Estate.

I will be involved in this project as it progresses. It is important that all part of our community engage with it. The business opportunities here will be fascinating. There is a strong expectation that the types of jobs likely to emerge will be of great interest to the next generation.

We have long been looking for ways in which we could reverse the trend of those that we educate then leaving Northern Devon.

This is the type of scheme which can bring about this important change.

It is necessary for businesses to understand this scheme as soon as possible. Not only will there be work opportunities here, but also a wider range of economic benefits, such as, the sale of goods and services to the Centre.

I whole heartedly support this and would encourage all to get further involved.

There are three online events for the Natural Capital Marketplace this month on 9th, 17th and 23rd June providing landowners and farmers with a friendly introduction to the NCM. Here is the Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-natural-capital-marketplace-an-introduction-for-devon-farmers-tickets-345182729837