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Steve Clarke has worked hard for Bideford as well as Kathleen and May

By This is NorthDevon  |  Posted: September 18, 2008

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I WRITE in reply to D L Barnes whose letter was published in the


, September 4 edition.

In my opinion the author has made no effort to verify what he is prepared to put in print. He asks disparagingly what Steve Clarke has done for his town, and I feel readers should know.

Long before being elected as a councillor, Steve Clarke did a tremendous amount for Bideford. Prior to the millennium he took down all of the unsafe 1970s decorative lighting and replaced it almost entirely at his own expense. When no one else was prepared to take it on, through the Bideford Chamber of Commerce, Steve Clarke was a prime mover in organising a New Year's Eve celebration for the millennium that has gone on to bring national and even international recognition to Bideford — and he continues to give freely of his time, energy and resources to support the event.

He put up for council in 2003 and was immediately elected as Deputy Leader spending the next several years transforming the council from one of the worst performing in England to what is now on the point of being recognised as an excellent council to the great benefit of all Torridge electors. His restoration of the Kathleen and May was described by the Duke of Edinburgh as being done to a better standard than any man or organisation had ever achieved — indeed it brought the Duke to North Devon for the first time in 52 years.

As I'm sure readers will appreciate, an OBE is an award which is not given away at whim. Meticulous checks are carried out over an extended period, and the award is only made to those most deserving of it. The question posed by D L Barnes in respect of Steve Clarke is therefore not only insulting, it is, in my opinion, beneath contempt.

Regarding Brunswick Wharf, Steve Clarke took over the wharf on a business lease from the then owner Pearce Construction for a pound in exchange for looking after and insuring it since Pearce had found it impossible to develop — and it remains impossible to this day because of the state of the ground which is reclaimed from the river. The notion that anyone would or should be willing to pay £17,000 per annum for it in its present state is, sadly, reminiscent of the thinking that got TDC into the mess it was in back in 2003!

The future of the Kathleen and May in Bideford is now being taken very seriously at the highest levels of government; the vessel is now in the core collection of Britain's Historic Ships, and once it is in public ownership will be funded and looked after by the nation. If indeed the vessel can be kept in her home port of Bideford at no cost to council tax payers, then without doubt she would be a tremendous asset to the town and provide a much-needed kick start to its regeneration.

One has to wonder what D L Barnes is trying to achieve — or is it "just politics" as they say?



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