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Maritime innovation centre scaled down

Tuesday, 9 April 2024 14:17

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Appledore Maritime Centre plan (image courtesy: Torridge District Council)

Office space scrapped

A £15.6 million flagship maritime innovation centre in Appledore, intended to be a world leader in clean shipbuilding, has been scaled down to keep it within budget.

The second floor of office space has been scrapped because of the escalating costs of the project which is being funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

Torridge District Councillors were told that the space would be more efficient and the operation of the centre wouldn’t be compromised.

The government has extended the time for the money to be spent to spring 2026. So far nearly £700,000 has been used to demolitish existing buildings and tidy up the site at Middle Dock.

The next phase will be the construction of the Quay Wall this autumn, once coastal engineering works are given consent by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO)

Planning permission for the Appledore Clean Maritime Innovation Centre, next to the Harland and Wolff shipyard, will be sought in July. Contractors have been chosen for the work.

It is one of the largest amounts of funding and project investments ever undertaken in Torridge and is expected to establish North Devon area as a global leading research and development destination for innovation in clean maritime technology and support industries.

A key role of the centre is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with space set aside for education and engagement activities.

But Cllr David Brenton (Lab, Bideford South) is concerned that losing one level of the building would make the project less viable.

Major projects manager for the district council Adrain Redwood said: “The costs have escalated and we are trying to keep it within the perimeters.

“The intention is to compromise on the overall building footprint and make the space more efficient, to maintain the income and output required for Levelling Up.”

He said the internal office space had been designed around escape routes and necessary safety measures such as future-proofing against sea level rises, and that the timescale on the project is “very tight but achievable.”

Councillor Len Ford (Ind, Appledore) said the area outside of the site needed to be tidied up. “We don’t want a silk purse there and a sow’s ear down the road. Let’s do the full job and do it well,” he told the meeting.

Cllr Doug Bushby (Ind, Bideford North) said he was impressed at how well the work is progressing: “It’s a staggering site and they are really cracking on.”

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