Claims it could risk reinstatement of rail-line
Plans to re-establish a rail link from Bideford to Barnstaple could be impacted if a former railway station building is replaced with housing.
The only remaining structure from the Bideford Railway Station, a former waiting room, has been on Torridge’s list of locally important buildings for 14 years.
Now owners of the building, Brend Hotels, wants to convert it into three houses.
Thirty-three letters of objection have been submitted to Torridge District Council from concerned residents who say that the loss of the platform could hamper plans to bring back the railway.
They say it is used by walkers and cyclists using the Tarka Trail, which runs past the building, and fear it could be used as “a dumping ground” because of limited space and storage for the homes.
One resident said: “This beautiful building is part of the local history and railway heritage. It should be protected and used for education purposes. Too much of local railway heritage has already been lost to developers.
“Other areas in this country enhance their area by protecting such buildings and countryside. I feel it’s time to put a halt on further development proposals.”
A request to get the former waiting room put on a national list of important buildings was refused in 2009, but conservation officers have asked the applicants to provide an assessment of its heritage significance because of its importance within the conservation area.
Agents for the applicant Jerry Kent Ltd said the proposal would respect the character and value of the existing railway building and the setting, and reuse an existing building.
Plans include an extension to house a mess room and toilet for the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre and bin and bike stores for each of the houses.
It has, however, been an aim of the railway heritage centre to convert the waiting room into a museum and tearoom.
One letter supporting the scheme said the aesthetics of the proposals appeared to marry the bygone era of railway buildings, in keeping with the location.
“With a chronic shortage of one and two bedroom properties, it makes complete sense that this redundant building is repurposed for desperately needed housing. I support this alternative use. The council should also ensure that the proposal enhances the heritage rail revival and that residential uses of the courtyards on the platform do not diminish heritage railway uses.”
The public has until Monday 27 November to make their views known to Torridge District Council.
Cllr Huw Thomas (Green, Bideford East) has “called in” the application to ensure it gets discussed and decided on by the planning committee and not by officers.