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Bideford cattle market gifted to rugby club

Tuesday, 5 March 2024 15:11

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Bideford Rugby Club. (Image: Google Street View)

Council land has been empty for 20 years

Bideford’s former cattle market, redundant for 20 years, is to get a new lease of life thanks to the town’s rugby club.

The club wants to install a 4G pitch at the derelict site as their current pitches are used too often.

Torridge District Council’s community and resources committee agreed to transfer ownership of the land under a community asset transfer process at no cost to the club.

The old livestock market is effectively a hard-standing area after buildings were removed several years ago.

Because it is in a flood zone and would require costly engineering works, it is seen as economically unviable for housing by the council.

Cllr Jane Whittaker (Con, Northam) said more sports facilities are needed in Torridge, with a Sport England survey in 2022 identifying the district as having the lowest activity levels in Devon.

She said despite ideas for the land, the council had never improved it even though it is opposite its head office.

“Bideford Rugby Club is a very well-respected and very well-run club that works with an enormous amount of local people, adults and children, right across our patch, not just Bideford,” she said.

“They can find the money and they will do the work to produce something for whatever good reason the council has not managed to do over a long time. I would endorse this all the way.”

The club submitted a business plan in December but councillors said they needed to make sure the facility is available to schools and the wider community, not just the rugby club.

“It’s in our interests to negotiate that as hard as we can,” said the council’s estates manager Jon Wynne.

Cllr Chris Leather (Ind, Northam) said on paper it is a good proposal and he supports using the site, but he isn’t happy about “gifting” it to somebody when it had been valued at £40,000.

“I would love to see an all-weather pitch down there, but Bideford and Northam have needed it for all kinds of sports, not just rugby.”

He said going ahead with the scheme precluded the council from using money recevied from developers when they secured planning permission on a multi-sport facility for the site.

Cllr Lydon Piper (Lib Dem, Holsworthy), lead member for leisure, said is is a great proposal that would allow sport to be played in all weathers.

“I do worry that we are letting this generation down because of poor investment in sports facilities over decades. The local clubs are ably supported by volunteers and there is a growing interest, but we don’t want the young people to switch off from grassroots sports because they have nowhere to play.”

Community asset transfer involves the transfer of management or ownership of land and buildings from a public sector body to a community-based organisation at less than market value or at no cost.

Planning consent will be needed for the rugby pitch proposal to go ahead.

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