Centre scrapped as council states plan isn't viable
By North Devon Journal | Thursday, September 06, 2012, 07:30
A LONG-awaited community centre in Bideford has been scrapped from a development scheme within the town after Torridge District Council was concerned about its viability.
The Bridge Centre scheme planned for Moreton Park has been a joint initiative between Redrow Homes and local youth charity Wings South West.
But Redrow claims it has been left with no option but to pursue a planning application without the Bridge Centre included after being advised by district council planning officers that the scheme was not viable with the centre included.
The centre was planned to house sporting facilities, a performing arts and theatre area, a bistro, fitness studios, a café and a crèche.
Ben Leather, a senior land manager at Redrow Homes, said: "The Bridge Centre proposals are enterprising and exciting, and we are disappointed that they cannot be progressed further.
"Viability is an important issue in planning matters, and the advice provided to us from Torridge planning officers must be taken into account."
He said Redrow would continue to seek planning permission for new homes, extra care provision and public open space in the area.
However, Wings has had no official word that the centre was not supported by district planners.
Paul Bowser, from the charity, said: "At the moment the only explanation is that there has been some sort of misunderstanding as councillors were unaware of the situation.
"An independently-produced five-year business plan has demonstrated the long term sustainability of the Bridge Centre and identified potential capital funding for the project.
"The news comes as a complete surprise and does not tie in with any of our meetings with the council."
He said Wings remained hopeful that further discussions would ensure the centre would happen.
But David Green, development enabling manager at the district council, said: "To date, the council has been unable to establish sufficient details on the funding and accessibility for the general public in relation to the Bridge Centre.
"The lack of this information and solid evidence of need in the business plan has delayed the determination of the application.
"While the council has repeatedly explained to Redrow if it wishes to pursue the Bridge Centre element of its application, it would need to allow the council more time to further investigate its viability and accessibility to the general public.
"Redrow has taken the view that it would like a quick decision on the application and therefore has now removed the Bridge Centre element from the application.
"The council has no choice but to determine the application as amended by Redrow and as such the application will have to proceed on this basis."
Mr Green said that the council was committed to working with Wings to find other solutions for the community.