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Holiday park owner claims Ilfracombe is in danger of becoming ghost town

By NDJDuncan  |  Posted: March 27, 2014

JohnFowler

Ilfracombe is "sleepingwalking towards ebcoming a ghost town", says Mr Fowler.

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ILFRACOMBE is “sleepwalking towards becoming a ghost town”, the owner of a holiday park has warned.

John Fowler, who owns Ilfracombe Holiday Park, said: “Imagine the ghost towns in the Wild West – if you look around, there are so many empty shops in Ilfracombe.”

Mr Fowler claimed the town was “losing its life force” and being “starved of funding and goodwill”.

But the mayor of Ilfracombe has disagreed, praising people’s generosity and claiming there is a “feeling of optimism in the town”.

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Mr Fowler is urging fellow local businesses to do more to support the town by funding local projects instead of “sending money to Timbuktu”.

This year John Fowler Holidays is donating £40,000 to charity – £20,00 of which will be given to local causes as part of an initiative Mr Fowler has named Project Ilfracombe.

“So many Victorian seaside towns decay and die, Ilfracombe is in grave danger of the same fate,” he said.

“But there is energy and vision in the town that can be nurtured.”

Mr Fowler said groups such as Ilfracombe In Bloom and Victorian Week brought the town to life, adding: “The hard-working local people behind these efforts need encouragement.

“I wish more people would think to help the deserving causes right under their noses.

“I’m hoping my cash gifts will act as catalysts to inspire more businesses and philanthropists to get behind Ilfracombe’s efforts to thrive.”

Mr Fowler will divide the £20,000 Project Ilfracombe funding between local causes including Ilfracombe in Bloom, Ilfracombe Victorian Celebrations and Ilfracombe Bandstand.

Mr Fowler is also donating £10,000 to Cancer Research’s local work and £10,000 to Barnstaple’s new chemotherapy unit.

Mayor of Ilfracombe Lynda Courtnadge praised Mr Fowler’s generosity but disagreed with his statements that there was a lack of goodwill in the town.

She said: “Many applications for funding for projects in Ilfracombe have ended in disappointment when we see other, more prosperous towns receiving it.

“However, although funding may be in short supply, the same cannot be said for goodwill.”

Mrs Courtnadge said the community was well known for its generosity.

She added: “Recent private investment by several national companies has certainly helped secure a brighter economic future, generating a feeling of optimism around the town.”

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9 comments

  • LaughingLarry  |  March 30 2014, 9:25PM

    JF donating some wedge in the right place will help and is commendable - Ilfracombe Is a Victorian town but it needs modernising.The weak council are indifferent to the slummy high St appearance and do nothing to force the owners of the peeling squalid empty shops and buildings to tidy them up. Too many people are obsessed with "Victorian Week" which is of no interest to the majority of residents and attracts busses of old folk into the town who only spend pennies on cheap accommodation and cups of tea. Fowlers Holiday Park is tatty and not a desired destination. Fowler is right in what he says but the answer in modernisation, the expansion of the town - an increase of 5000 in the population would be excellent for the area and a couple of up market Hotels to attract customers with spending money.

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  • usagi_preppy  |  March 27 2014, 6:49PM

    It's a shame that people can't see what he is trying to do - we all KNOW Ilfracombe has often been over-looked, with the priority being Barnstaple and that is what he is trying to say - we cannot let this happen, and need to work harder than ever to make this happen. He had kindly donated £20,00 to the good causes of Ilfracombe, and people are whinging. He has praised ( I quote ) 'hardworking local people behind the Ilfracombe in Bloom, Victorian Week etc etc and they need encouragement and praise' and 'there is energy and vision in the town'. He is right - indeed there is. We just need to look after it. He is promoting things being done in the town. He hasn't said nothing is being done, he is saying Ilfracombe WILL , (not has) decline into a ghost town if it gets overlooked. I think a lot of these commenters have completely mis-read the article and/or misunderstood what Mr Fowler is trying to do.

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  • LaughingLarry  |  March 27 2014, 6:38PM

    Thing is Mr Fowler, is that Your holiday park brings the town down,look at the comments on Trip Advisor about the awful accommodation - 1950s style. If you spent some cash and improved the place more people would want to stay there and in turn would say positive things about the town and SPEND MONEY. If you look at some of the comments your place has actually frightened people away !!

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  • Stork  |  March 27 2014, 4:41PM

    As I've said in previous articles. Ilfracombe, is a Town in decline. It's up to the Council to " go out there" and look for developers to invest in the community. Ilfracombe is by the sea, so why don't we have a Marina ? Ok, yes, it would cost a lot of money to build a Marina, but it's possible if the Council come up with the right deal. Ilfracombe could be an exceptional place for big time yachting, with all the jobs and prosperity that would bring. More shops, hotels, marine supplies, and hopefully, loads of tourists who love to see loads of boats. There's some developer out there who would be very interested, if the deal was right. At the moment however, the developer, probably based in London and the South East, might not know what an opportunity is Ilfracombe. They might not even know that Ilfracombe exists, or where it is. Hence, continued decline.

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  • probe  |  March 27 2014, 4:16PM

    I think that some of the comment writers here have totally missed Mr Fowler's point. He can see, as many of us can, that despite a lot of effort by a lot of people, there has been a steady deterioration over a number of years. It will obviously take a huge rethink by a huge number of people to bring this town back to some semblance of what it used to be. Let's not argue amongst ourselves about this, let's get back to the days when it was a pleasure to shop in the High Street or visit the Sea Front. Most people know what to do, but it is such shame that our elected "betters" have their heads so deeply buried.

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  • Sue200  |  March 27 2014, 12:13PM

    ILFRACOMBE is "sleepwalking towards becoming a ghost town" says Mr Fowler posing in front of one of the most iconic attractions in the south west.! Or maybe because of the amount of new galleries, arts and crafts shops that have opened in the past three years Ilfracombe is attracting people who don't want hi-de-hi type holidays anymore? Ilfracombe is bustling, new investment, new business, lots of people moving into the area. Silly man.

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  • LanternView  |  March 27 2014, 10:17AM

    Great to see Mr Fowler funding Ilfracombe in Bloom and the Victorian weekend, but no mention of sea Ilfracombe or Ilfra-Expo or any of the others new initiatives being driven by Ilfracombe residents. Has he not seen the plans to add thousands of new residents to the south of Ilfracombe, which will bring new business to the High Street. Has he not noted the boldness of the town council in taking on the Latern and buying the Old Bus Station. Has he not considered how much Weatherspoons are investing in the town. Has he not noted all the new art and craft businesses that have opened in recent years. Yes Ilfracombe has a challenge as the tourist industry needs to continue to evolve away from traditional family seaside holidays. I guess the reality for Mr Fowler is that his camp may struggle .. maybe he could sell to Centre Parcs?

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  • Sue200  |  March 27 2014, 9:28AM

    It is a shame that Mr Fowler sees fit to talk down Ilfracombe and he does a great disservice to the numerous people who work so hard for the good of the town. I applaud his generosity to good causes but on other matters he is quite wrong. Ilfracombe is a town with a village appetite for goodwill and community spirit. Yes, funding is short but it is not for the lack of applying for grants and then watching with disappointment as chunks of funding are given to somewhere in Cornwall. Yes, there are empty shops on the High Street, show me a town where there isn't. Unfortunately, many of the High Street properties are owned by greedy landlords who would rather see their properties empty than let someone have them at a reasonable rent. The shop units are small by today's standards which puts off large chains wanting to open here. Part of the charm of the High Street is the independent shops. There are so many new businesses that have started up in the past three years. If Mr Fowler were to take a walk around the harbour he will see for himself. New shops, new paintwork, fresh window displays, builders and scaffolding everywhere. Everyone getting ready. Even over the winter Ilfracombe has been busy, due in most part to Verity. Last summer there wasn't a car parking space to be had there was a buzz about the place and a great sense of optimism. Within the coming months there are over 35 events planned in the town, the Museum has exhibitions, public art is back on display. Ilfracombe has had to help itself to survive and it is. The majority of people I know are very optimistic for the future of the town, unlike Mr Fowler it would seem.

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  • ArtfulDodger  |  March 27 2014, 7:46AM

    Mr Fowler sold his land in Westward Ho! to the first developer that came along with a bucket load of cash, without a second thought to those in the village..... Perhaps his main concern now is the effect on his camp in Ilfracombe rather than actually caring about the towm?

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