Thursday, January 17, 2013
Unanimous vote on Knapp House proposals met with boos and heckling at packed council meeting.
A DECISION on plans for a ‘marina village’ at Knapp House in Northam has been deferred today (Thursday).
The application for 250-berth marina and 295 houses, as well as a hotel, care village, school site and medical centre, was the first item on the agenda for Torridge District Council’s (TDC) planning committee.
Around 200 people packed into Bideford Town Hall, some with placards and banners, to hear a verdict on the application which was submitted last year.
But after hearing from speakers and opening the meeting to debate, councillors raised concerns over reports that had been issued at the eleventh hour.
Cllr Margaret Brown said: “This is a major application for the Torridge area.
“I’d like to put forward the motion to defer this until the next planning meeting, and then we can make an informed decision.”
Lewis Andrews, planning executive for TDC, said a joint report written by two independent marina consultees, one employed by the council and the other by the applicants, had only been received by the council at 6.30pm the night before the meeting.
A further report from Natural England about offsetting the biodiversity of the site to a different location, which he claimed was key in the decision making process, had been received at the same time.
There were also concerns over points raised by Councillor Peter Christie, who spoke at the meeting as the ward member for Bideford North.
He said: “Torridge are the lease owners for the foreshore where the channel to enter the marina would have to be dredged.
“I am acting chair of the harbour board and nobody has consulted us over this.”
Cllr Christie also raised the issue of the Northam Cause, an historical document dating back to 1716, which contained points which could affect the developers plans.
“According to this, if someone wants to moor their boat in the marina channel instead of the marina, the marina owners could do nothing about it,” he said.
Councillor Chris Leather said he felt the issues raised by Cllr Christie needed to be looked into further.
He said: “I was up all evening looking at this application, and was still going over it at 1am.
“Until we’ve got this extra information we cannot make an informed decision.”
The planning committee also heard from Alex Beer, speaking on behalf of Marina Developments Ltd which was employed by Torridge to independently assess the viability of the marina.
Mr Beer said the marina would only cover its operating costs, giving a return of 10 per cent of the investment value needed to build it.
He said: “the value of the marina would be fairly low if the developers ever wanted to sell it.
“I think I saw a figure quoted somewhere for £1.6million, but I would strongly suggest that’s not viable.
“Let’s put it this way - as a marina operator we wouldn’t do it.”
Councillors voted unanimously, to booing and heckling from the crowd, to defer the application to the next planning committee meeting to take place on February 7.