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Minutes of the Extraordinary General Meeting held in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Bideford on Thursday 3rd October 2019 at 6.30 pm

PRESENT:

North Ward:

Councillor D Bushby
Councillor P S Christie (Town Mayor)
Councillor J Herron
Councillor D McGeough
Councillor T Johns

South Ward:

Councillor Mrs K Corfe
Councillor Mrs S Langford
Councillor P Lawrence
Councillor R I Wootton

West Ward:

Councillor C Hawkins
Councillor D Ratcliff

East Ward:

Councillor Mrs R Craigie
Councillor J Craigie
Councillor Mrs J Gubb
Councillor J A McKenzie

IN ATTENDANCE:

Mr R Coombes (Deputy Town Clerk)
Mrs L Dixon-Chatfield (Town Clerk’s Assistant)
Mr C Fuller (Torridge District Council)
4 x members of the public

 

91.      APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Councillor Mrs L Hellyer (East Ward) – work

92.      DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA

There were no declarations of interest.

93.      PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION

A member of the public asked if questions from the floor could be taken after the presentation, other than those from Councillors.

The Chairman advised him that it would be at the Chairman’s discretion.

94.      COMMUNICATION BROUGHT FORWARD ON THE DIRECTION OF THE MAYOR

The Chairman had no correspondence.

The Deputy Town Clerk wished to remind members that the agenda had been sent out for the Market Management Committee EGM on Tuesday 8th October at 6.30pm.

95.      FUTURE HIGH STREET FUNDING

The Chairman introduced Mr Chris Fuller, the Economic Development Officer of Torridge District Council.

Mr Fuller supported his visual presentation with a brief insight into the understanding of the Future High Street Fund. The Expression of Interest is on the One Bideford website for anyone to see and read.
• Bideford’s Expression of Interest was accepted in the second wave to be shortlisted for a share of the Government’s £675m fund.
• This would give Bideford £5m - £10m transformative funding.
• Not to be used for surface or cosmetic improvement.
• For the future of the Town Centre.

Mr Fuller further explained that Torridge has been and will be holding conversations across the Town and ages, covering all aspects of what people want to see. Especially the youth as they are the future.

A business case needs to be put together that demonstrates the desperate need for change in Bideford. The Low Wage – Low Skill – Low Aspiration needs to be a strong part of the narrative. There needs to be a way to bring in private sector funding to match the Government funds.

The deadline for the results to be submitted is 25th March 2020 with the final Business Case being put forward for 30th June 2020. The decision will be in the Autumn.

Mr Fuller informed members, that in his opinion, the funding opportunity does not have a political edge to it.

A working group had been set up with the first meeting held last week, to scale up the Expression of Interest – looking at objectives, pride in the Town Centre, creating an experience for visitors and residents that will mean they spread the word. Mr Fuller explained the necessity to drive the quality of the project up by condensing the plan. Aspects to be incorporated would be:

• Affordable high quality residential units within the Town Centre.
• Consideration for environmental aspects.
• Heritage and Culture.
• Retail.

Bringing the presentation to rest, Mr Fuller pointed out to members that this Funding was a massive opportunity incorporating Mill Street, Bridgeland Street, Queen Street and Cooper Street. With a very specific brief, the necessities and requirements will be targeted. Preliminary discussions had been held with Mr Isaac regarding his properties in Queen Street, Cooper Street and Bridgeland Street.

Mr Fuller would like to hear members’ ideas on how to utilise the space, creating access, bearing in mind that the business case model is incredibly specific, and criteria would include:

• Retail.
• Wellbeing space.
• Residential.
• Sympathetically environmental.
• Carbon neutral.
• Vibrancy.

Mr Fuller concluded that conversations would take place across the Town over the next few weeks. He looked forward to this Council’s feedback.

The Chairman was glad to hear that there was more time to put the business model together, originally the deadline had been January – but the extension to March gave a little more breathing space.

He concurred with Mr Fuller in that this was the biggest opportunity for Bideford in a long time and although we may not win, the exercise of identification is worth going through. There are 100 towns applying for the Government money and it is essential that we make sure Bideford stands out from the other 99. We probably need to think “off the wall” to seize the judges’ attention.

The Chairman added that members may like to go away and think a little more about any ideas or they could voice them at this meeting.

It had, he explained, been suggested some 20 years ago that the land behind Heards Garage be utilised – it is a huge area – using the space for an open piazza, re-using the shops and possibly moving some traders from the Market complex. The garage has a Belfast truss roof which could be incorporated into a cinema. He had also considered a roof over Mill Street – not secured to the buildings – creating a shopping mall in the middle of Town.

The Chairman opened the floor for ideas and feedback, Councillors were most forthcoming in their thoughts – as follows:

• Demolish the buildings on the Quayside and create a frontage of restaurants/bars etc.
o Need to ensure a working port with boats coming in.
• A shuttle bus scheme to assist visitors to get from car parks to Town centre.
• Pedestrianise the whole area and look at transporting people into the Town. The future generations may not wish to drive through the Town.
• A theatre – performance space.
• Making the planned area pedestrianised would create a natural café culture.
• Pedestrianisation through Jubilee Square, utilising outdoor screens and more leisure orientated opportunities.
• Walls with digital wallpapers.
• Superfast broadband.
• Greenspace – keep in the centre.
• Possibility of buildings around trees.
• Provision for the perfect day or weekend out. Food, parking, transport, kids’ entertainment. Look at other areas and how they tick the boxes of a great experience.
• The wider infrastructure needs to support any major plans.
• Maritime – Heritage tourism. Open space keep the trees, historical display, maritime heritage and historical – interactive and educational with families using the facilities and shops.
• Plans for a tram link between Torrington, Barnstaple and Bideford.
• Water taxis.
• Private and community investment essential
• Diversity
• Identity
• Preserve our rich heritage
• Provide high quality of sculpture throughout the development.
• Cinema would be great– having one in the centre of town will attract more people in.
• £10m doesn’t go too far – need to be more specific – up against deprived towns. We have no community centre no performance space. Housing will be a good way to achieve revenue
• If Market incumbents are given opportunity to move into Town centre, the Market complex can be utilised as a performance space.
• Street theatre in the centre of Town
• Horse and carriage rides to the Pannier Market – carbon neutral
• The Pannier Market is one of the Bideford crown jewels, could make a great theatre space. Needs a whole new way of thinking, confident that it could be a great venue.
• Two opportunities; development of the Town Centre and the Pannier Market. Market Hall rents reflect the revenue earned by traders. If rents are affordable in the new development, the serious arts and crafts would have a lucrative footfall.
• Only if the Pannier Market empties of traders can the Market Hall be re-utilised. By this development you free up a big venue area.

The Chairman, at this point wanted to make it clear to Mr Fuller that the Market complex has to be taken into consideration in future plans.

The Deputy Town Clerk reminded members that this Council was investing heavily in the Pannier Market, with new automatic glass doors, solar panels and the Market Development Officer. He was concerned that at this stage, the Market was being written off. He added that this Council had not invested in the Market Development Officer, for her to have her hands tied and so changes would be coming about imminently, for the improvement of the Complex as a trading post. Whilst some traders will find this challenging, these changes have been fully supported by the Market Management Committee.

The Chairman pointed out that Bridge Buildings had not been ruled out of the plans and that ideas for its usage would be welcomed. Members put their thoughts forward:

• A Wellbeing Centre.
• Creative Centre.
• A Work Hub, Bridge Buildings has great superfast broadband.

Councillor Mrs Langford observed that it would be interesting to know what ideas the youth put forward.

Councillor Bushby, picking up on the concerns of a fellow councillor regarding consultancy fees, suggested seeing a model of a similar business case from the chosen consultant – in order to see it living and breathing.

Mr Fuller advised members that the scheme has to create benefits for the wider Bideford and cannot be detrimental to the Town’s periphery.

The Chairman closed the feedback session, and thanked members for their valuable input.

96.      TO NOMINATE AND RESOLVE UPON A REPRESENTATIVE TO FORM PART OF THE FUTURE HIGH STREET PROJECT GROUP.

The Chairman asked Mr Fuller how often the Project Group would meet. Mr Fuller suggested every 6 weeks.

It was confirmed that Councillor Bushby was already a member of the project group, and so the Chairman asked for nominations for one other from the Town Council to stand as a representative.

Councillor Mrs R Craigie nominated Councillor Herron and was seconded by Councillor J Craigie.

The Chairman was satisfied that, as there had been no contenders for the position, that Councillor Herron would take a seat on the Future High Street Fund Project Group – this was agreed unanimously by all members present.

 

The business of the meeting having been concluded the Mayor thanked the members for their attendance at the meeting which concluded at 8.13 pm.


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