Plans for ‘marina village’ refused in closely tied vote

PUBLISHED: 07:30 13 February 2013

People queued around the corner to get into the planning meeting at Bideford Town Hall this morning.

People queued around the corner to get into the planning meeting at Bideford Town Hall this morning.

Archant

It is not yet known if developers will appeal the decision by Torridge District Council.

CHEERS erupted from members of the public on Thursday morning as councillors voted to refuse an application for a 250-berth ‘marina village’ at Knapp House.

Five of the nine members of Torridge District Council’s planning committee voted to go with the recommendation made by planning officers to refuse the application.

The plans submitted by LTPH Properties included 295 new houses (38 of which would be affordable), 80 holiday homes and a 90-bed care home.

A site allocated for a primary school, retail units, a 40-bed hotel and a doctors’ surgery were also included in the plans.

Despite concerns raised about the site being in a coastal protection area, an increase in traffic, provision of low paid, seasonal jobs and the profitability of the marina, four councillors voted in favour of the application.

The main concern for most present at the meeting was that building houses next to Appledore shipyard, run by Babcock Marine, could create problems due to noise levels.

Town and district councillors speaking at the meeting were worried it could also stop any possible expansion of the shipyard in the future, which employs 350 people and 50 sub-contractors at present.

Lewis Andrews, planning executive for the council, said officers had balanced the issues surrounding the application but were ‘conclusive’ in recommending refusal.

Councillor Margaret Brown moved to refuse the application, and said: “I do think it detracts from the area, and there’s a threat to the shipyard and to future jobs.

“We need to protect our jobs; I believe any economic benefit that could be accrued from this development wouldn’t outweigh any adverse impacts on this sensitive area.”

But Councillor Kathy Murdoch said she thought if the marina worked, it could be ‘absolutely brilliant’ for the region and could bring in future investment.

Councillor Chris Leather, who also voted in favour of the marina plans, was booed by the crowd when he said the site was ‘of no major ecological value’ to him personally.

He said: “If we want the marina and feel it would be an asset, to make it viable we have got to put other things in there to pay for it.

“I’d like to see another hotel; we’re very short of hotels in the area and I think to make Knapp House into a 40-bed hotel is a brilliant scheme.”

Developer Paul Hevingham said the marina would provide hundreds of jobs and LTPH would work with the council to negotiate terms to protect the shipyard.

He said: “This development will create 305 new jobs in Torridge and 120 construction jobs over a period of at least six years; that’s one permanent job for every new house built.

“The noise generated by Babcock can be mitigated on this site and we will work together with them.”

But Councillor David Brenton, ward member for Bideford South, was sceptical of the developers’ promises.

“This deal has been sweetened so many times it’s the size of a gobstopper,” he said.

“That kind of environment; you can’t just recreate it.

“I’ll be in my wicker coffin and they’ll still be trying to build on it, but we have a duty for our children and grandchildren to protect what is over there.”

After hearing arguments on both sides Councillors Margaret Brown, Harold Martin, Howard Ratledge, David Lausen and Rosemary Lock voted in favour of refusing the development.

Councillors Peter Watson, Mervyn Langmead, Kathy Murdoch and Chris Leather voted against the refusal.

Speaking after the meeting, Northam town councillor Peter Hames who has campaigned against the development from the offset said it was a close call.

The developers were unavailable for comment and it is not yet known if they will be appealing the decision.

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