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Holiday units in railway building approved

Saturday, 13 April 2024 11:56

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

The old railway building in Bideford which is being converted into holiday lets. (mage courtesy: Torridge District Council)

Hotelier says it will support his struggling business

A Bideford hotelier wants to covert a former railway building into holiday lets to secure his struggling business.

Richard Brend told planners it is hard to make a living out a 30-bed establishment like the Royal Hotel, which had been in his family for 55 years, because it is too small.

He owns the old Bideford Railway Station waiting room nearby and believes putting five bedrooms in it would make his business more sustainable, and that the unique attraction would “sell quite well.”

Torridge District Council’s plans committee approved the three holiday units which included an extension and a mess area for the railway heritage centre. A  phone box will be moved to the platform and become a pocket railway heritage museum.

The original scheme for permanent homes on place of the waiting room provoked 69 letters of objection, with many concerned it would impact long-term plans to reinstate the rail link from Bideford to Barnstaple.

Bideford Town Council also opposed the scheme on the same grounds and concerns over access.

The application was changed to holiday accommodation after planning officers said there was not enough outside space.

Officers said patios would take up less than half the width of the platform and would be enclosed by railings. They said it would not affect the rail link, should it return, or the Tarka Trail which runs past the building.

Alterations to the building, which has been on the list of Torridge’s locally important buildings for 14 years, include solar panels and a first floor created in the roof with patent glass instead of the roof lights originally proposed.

Cllr Jane Whittaker (Con, Northam) said she was torn over the application as the railway building was a local landmark but it was important to support businesses in the town.

“My grandparents arrived at that station over 100 years ago after their wedding. People are concerned about this application, as is the town council, but we want to encourage tourism, as we do not have enough beds in Bideford, and support the Royal Hotel.”

Cllr Chris Leather (Ind, Northam) said many people who objected had not understood the application, with some thinking the building is being demolished.

Cllr Rosemary Lock (Con, Two Rivers and Three Moors)  said she had been impressed by how much the applicants had worked with planning and conservation officers to make the scheme more acceptable, including relocating solar panels to reduce their impact on views from the river.

Cllr Huw Thomas (Green, Bideford East) said the large strips of patent glass were a “substantial” change to the roof and he didn’t believe a mini museum in a phone box was of much benefit.

He also disagreed that that holiday units would deter ASB in that area as they would not be occupied year round.

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