THE town council recently discussed the new Local Plan which sets out the proposed development of Bideford for the next 20 years.
Councillors queried the imbalance between numbers of planned houses with provision of infrastructure and jobs.
Philip Pester reckoned 20 years wasn't long enough and that we should be looking 50 years ahead, while David Howell said: "This plan is very flawed from a Bideford point of view."
Most outspoken was the Mayor Simon Inch who said: "Bideford will die if this plan goes ahead."
In general terms we asked for two new health centres, with Steve Clarke pointing out the difficulties of parking at the present two.
Annie Brenton highlighted concerns over jobs, saying if we don't get better ones then we will remain a low wage area.
Mervyn Langmead said the plan suggests two new primary schools but no new secondary school to cater for the children as they move on.
David Brenton won support for his idea to reopen the Bideford-Barnstaple rail line to run alongside the Tarka Trail. My long advocated reopening of the Bideford-Westward Ho! rail track as an extension to the Tarka Trail is now in the plan and was unanimously supported.
When we discussed specific new housing areas we did not support the area that is planned to infill the Abbotsham Road-Clovelly Road-link road triangle but would rather see growth to the south of the town.
The plan shows Bideford elongated east-west and we didn't want that, preferring a more compact shape.
Our points will now go to Torridge for consideration and there is still time for anyone to make their own views known – the plan is available from Torridge and local libraries.
On May 2 this year the five Devon county council seats in Torridge are coming up for re-election.
Two are in Bideford and Torridge is putting on a briefing event for prospective candidates at Riverbank House on March 20, at 7pm.
The county council is based in Exeter and although expenses and an allowance are paid it does require an enormous commitment of time – and one never joins any council to make friends.
Without councillors, however, democracy in this country would be by far the poorer.
MP Geoffrey Cox has referred to Eric Pickles, the minister in charge of councils, in a recent speech in Parliament, saying: "Since the Secretary of State is present, let me say that I appreciate his robust style.
"Government members love him; we think he is an asset to the Conservative party and to the Government. However, I plead with him: could he temper his language just a little?
"There are hundreds of Conservative councillors who from time to time listen to his words and misunderstand. We know he does not mean it; we know it is just a joke.
"We know he is only teasing and that he is doing it in a loving way. The truth is, however, that those Conservative councillors – and other councillors – need to be loved and not always criticised."
Clearly Mr Cox has not been to many recent council meetings in Bideford where Pickles is regularly attacked for his crassness of approach – by councillors of all political hue.
One of the secrets of Bideford is the East-the-Water cemetery which contains the graves of two Victoria Cross winners and a sprinkling of Armed Forces' gravestones.
One of these is an extremely rare one in that not only is it from the First World War period (most of the dead were buried where they fell) but it records a woman.
This was Mildred Johns of 12 Elm Grove who was a member of the Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps and died on 16 July 1919 aged just 22.
Does anyone know anything more about her or if she has any relations still living in the area?
The Burton Forum is where council officers, councillors and the friends of the gallery get together to plan for the future.
At its last meeting we heard that the number of recent visitors is down slightly, but given the weather and the state of the economy this is not unexpected.
Recent craft days have, however, brought in extra numbers and another innovation is the hiring out of the Burton for wedding receptions – getting married surrounded by art would make an unusual and memorable occasion.
A new guide to forthcoming exhibitions is out and a series of talks lined up including Harry Juniper on April 3 and Paul Rendle presenting Dartmoor in old postcards on April 27.
As Bideford's only wet weather attraction the Burton is a vital part of our tourism industry – and with its ever changing displays we are lucky to possess such a feature – so if you haven't been lately, do go – you won't be disappointed.