Town asked to help create research and visitor centre
A two-storey visitor centre could be built in Bideford where it is thought Elizabethan explorer Sir Richard Grenville was born, if a town councillor's scheme is taken up by the rest of the council.
Councillor David Howell was due to present a proposal to Bideford Town Council at a meeting last night which called for buildings in Bridge Street to be transformed into a visitor centre with research facilities.
The property, 1-3 Bridge Street, is currently for sale.
Last year historian David Carter and Bideford town councillor Andy Powell discovered that the building could have been the birthplace of Sir Richard in 1542.
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Mr Howell said the building was in a prime site and would be perfect for attracting visitors.
He said he thought about the scheme some time ago but was simply waiting for the right site to come up before taking the scheme any further.
He added that he was looking for a pledge from the town council to support the scheme and then he could go ahead putting together a business plan and look for match funding.
He said: "The ground floor would be open and would be somewhere for visitors to get information and find out about the history of the town.
"There will be a research and training facility and open education area.
"I would want to make sure it was a venture that could stand on its own and won't need financial support from the council once it is up and running.
"It would be a commercial venture, one that is viable but not making a huge profit.
"I think to purchase the property we will need between £300,000 and £350,000 so I estimate that the town council would need to invest about £150,000 from the reserves."
Mr Howell has added in four conditions to go along with the proposal if it is agreed by the town council.
These include putting together a robust business plan; ensuring the long-term viability of the project was proven; making sure the proposed layout and usage of the premises met the council's aspirations; and ensuring all match funding to buy, convert and initially support the centre was in place.
Mr Howell has also specified that the pledge from the town council would not be a commitment but it would kick-start the fundraising.
Mr Powell, who is also chairman of heritage group Bideford 500, said that although he was not working with Mr Howell on the project he hoped the heritage group would be involved in the future.
Last year Mr Powell suggested the buildings should become a museum but thinks Mr Howell's idea is more viable.
He said: "My hope is that Bideford 500 can take on the running of the centre once it is up and running."