Bideford Town Council want to buy East-the-Water Wharves
Bideford Town Council decided last night to venture forward with buying two sites within the town to help improve the town's public facilities.
At their monthly full council meeting held at Bideford Town Hall the council decided to firstly approach Torridge District Council to buy the East-the-Water Wharves from them.
Councillors then agreed unanimously to support Councillor David Howell looking into the feasibility of turning buildings in Bridge Street into a visitor and research centre.
If the town council is successful in buying the wharves it will mean TDC's plans to develop the site into apartments, shops and restaurants will be scrapped.
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The proposal was put forward by town councillors Peter Christie and David Brenton.
Mr Brenton said at the meeting: "We have got to grasp this with both hands, have a bit of courage for heaven's sake."
Both councillors believe turning the currently derelict site into an open community space echoes what people in Bideford want.
They also aired concern over the impact riverside housing would have on Bideford's working port if TDC’s plan go ahead. They fear complaints from residents about noise from the port would eventually close the port.
Mr Brenton added: "The only reason TDC are doing this is because they want it cleared up, no one has come up to me and said what a great idea.
"Once it is built on that is it, is this what we want for future generations to say we let that happen?"
But not all the councillors agreed.
Councillor Tony Inch said: "TDC has gone out to consultation on this, where have these councillors been? If they had been around then they would have come up with this plan before.
"With TDC's development there will be employment, there will be a walk way. This will be a big asset to Bideford. This is what Bideford needs."
Councillors voted in favour of the proposal to buy the wharf site with a majority of nine votes to six.
Despite there being a unanimous vote to look at turning 1-3 Bridge Street, where is it believed Elizabethan explorer Sir Richard Grenville was born, into a visitor centre much debate was held on the matter before a decision was reached.
Mr Howell made clear that he was not wanting any pledge of money from the council at this stage, he simply wanted the council's backing to go and draw up a business plan and approach funding bodies to contribute to the project which is estimated will cost £400,000 in total.
He said: "It is not a commitment, it is simply if I can get everything together then at future point, say in 12 months’ time, more commitment will be given.
"Of course I may come back and say it is not viable, I don't know yet.
"I will commit my last two years as a councillor to seeing this through."
Mr Brenton aired concerns over the location of the site saying that people often drive into the town and park the other end of the town at the Pill Car Park meaning they would miss the centre.
But this was countered by suggestions that good signage would overcome this problem.