CONTRACTS have been signed over the development of Bideford’s East-the-Water wharves.
Simon Maunder of Oceanside Developments signed an agreement with Torridge District Council to develop the area into public open space with access to the river, upmarket restaurants, shops and accommodation.
The council has been considering the potential development of the area for several years.
Leader Phil Collins said: “It’s been a long time coming but I’m very keen to progress this development, with really modern upmarket restaurants, shops and accommodation this will be a huge step in the regeneration of Bideford.
“The benefits will reach far beyond just the town but the wider Torridge and northern Devon area too.”
Mr Maunder called the agreement a “significant milestone” in the regeneration of the wharves, adding the council had set the bar high.
“It will become a vibrant go-to destination and the nautical leisure hub for the whole of North Devon,” he said. “The waterfront public spaces are extensive and the residential aspect has been kept to a minimum, primarily to fund the associated Marina and other public amenities.
“It’s taken longer to get to this point than I envisaged, but I’m still as excited about it as I was two years ago when I submitted my bid alongside the many other interested parties.”
It is expected work on the wharves will start when the final planning and survey issues have been agreed this summer, with Bideford Marina opening to the public in 2016.
Mr Maunder continued: “I truly appreciate that there is much at stake for Bideford and found that there were many different stakeholders who needed to be considered when devising the design detail.
“That phase is now complete and the actual build now moves to the forefront.”
No planning application has yet been submitted, but is expected imminently.
Roger Johnson, deputy leader of the council, said the signing of the contracts was a “wonderful day”.
“A lot of staff have worked very hard on this project, and research tells us that upmarket restaurants here will be a catalyst to revitalise the town,” he said. “Simon and I both agree we need to attract people here from outside Bideford — from Barnstaple and Bude — and make them want to come here.”
Jenny Wallace, head of paid service at Tthe council said: "Investment like this gives us an exciting opportunity to pump new life and vitality into a tired and underused area of our wonderful town. We can look forward to a significant development that I feel will be the envy of many-a-riverside town."
Bideford Town Mayor councillor Simon Inch said: "Bideford needs a development like this that is unique and exciting but which feels part of the town and complements and enhances Bideford as a whole.
"It should offer further choice and importantly reconnect East-the-Water with the main town where locals and visitors can shop, live and relax right at the very edge of our wonderful and fascinating river."