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By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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THE coverage of the Local Plan for Torridge and North Devon in last week's Journal will have given you some idea of what is planned for this area.

I must stress that this isn't fixed yet with quite a few councillors, including me, not supporting a lot of the ideas put forward.

Our planners, following Government diktat, have had to prepare a plan for a massive rise in households – due to in-migration to this area, more births than deaths and the increase in new households (children leaving home, divorcing couples etc).

I made the point that we should be seeking jobs and infrastructure before any extra housing – all our settlements have been short-changed in this way on many previous occasions.

Andy Boyd from Torrington said that currently there are 42,000 people of employable age not working in North Devon, which could rise to 72,000 if we get the population increase the plan envisages.

The recent news from Bideford on the loss of one of our factories makes this even more pressing.

It was also pointed out that in Torridge alone we need 76,927 additional affordable homes but councillors were told "we have no chance of meeting this".

The figures for house-building to support this were illuminating. In 2011-12 some 125 houses of all sorts were built in Bideford, 16 in Northam and an astonishing one (yes, one) in Torrington – although this latter seems to be a statistical anomaly.

In order to generate some affordable homes Torridge is suggesting that in any development of seven units or more 25 per cent must be affordable – the figures used to be 40 per cent in any development over 25 although developers have been constantly attempting (often successfully) to lower this percentage already.

The idea of a third bridge at Bideford (around Little America) was raised but quickly shot down as it would cost around £80 million – £80 million more than is available at the moment.

The whole thing is going out to public consultation on January 31 for six weeks, but be warned, just writing in to say you don't like something will count for nothing.

You will have to suggest an alternative backed up by evidence, ie, figures. This hardly seems fair given that the local plan itself has been prepared over the last few years by a team of dedicated full-time professionals plus a few councillors with the resources of Torridge, North Devon and the county council to call on – and yet the public will only have six weeks to suggest and support their approaches.

Last week's Torridge planning committee meeting to discuss the proposed marina/housing development at Knapp in Northam was exciting.

Bideford town hall was packed at 9.30am with some of the 600+ objectors to the scheme who had come to hear the details discussed and it was fascinating to hear the various points.

I threw in a few comments pointing out that the developer hadn't contacted the Bideford Harbour Board about dredging an approach channel to the marina – which is an oversight given the fact that the Board are the leaseholders from the Crown of virtually the entire foreshore of the Torridge.

Perhaps the most telling comments came from a "marina expert" (he runs them) who had been hired to examine the economics of the scheme.

He said the proposed charge to boat owners of £190 per metre per annum was "on the high side" while the assumed operating costs were "set on the low side", presumably to bolster the economic case of the applicants.

He detailed discrepancies in the tidal data which seemed to challenge the stated availability of the marina to would-be users.

His killer comment came when he was asked what he thought of the stated costs/income figures and simply answered: "As a marina operator we wouldn't do it."

Peter Hames, last year's Mayor of Northam, characterised the housing associated with the marina as a "suburban sprawl on this green site".

Anthony Chambers summed up the whole thing as an "unsustainable development built on unsupported optimism".

The application was deferred until the next committee meeting given the volume of new material presented at a late stage.

I think the deferral was correct but given the groans and catcalls from the public they would much rather have seen a decision reached there and then.

In 1927 the people of Bideford got together to stage an historical pageant to mark the opening of the newly constructed Kingsley Road.

Hundreds took part and many photos were produced showing the event.

What I hadn't realised until I was reading the Journal for June 1927 that a film had been made of the event by W W Perkins – which he presented to the Bideford Chamber of Commerce for advertising purposes.

Does anyone know what happened to the film?

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  • Rockall2011  |  January 24 2013, 4:59PM

    How is it right that a serving district councillor has a newspaper column on local politics, so often to promote himself? Is this afforded to any other district councillors?

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