The Centre has been funded by £1.2M from the Governments Coastal Communities Fund and £400K from the Getting Building fund with Torridge Officers providing the project management element of the build. The bids for funding were facilitated and supported by Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Council’s Economic partners, North Devon+. Like many local businesses and projects, the work programme has had to tiptoe around pandemic restrictions and shortages of cement and other materials but has been a great example of collaboration in difficult times between funders, architects, engineers and builders.
The Pebble Ridge Kitchen Café run by the owners of the Royal George in Appledore have already settled into their new home, serving up local produce and refreshments. The wider facilities also boast an exhibition centre with mini-aquarium and displays of local wildlife, historic landscapes, and innovative interactive digital sections with a hands on approach for children to tap into. A new and much needed accessible changing places facility for people with disabilities has also been provided as part of a new services block. Office and meeting room accommodation for the rangers and partner organisations are now airy, bright and better insulated against the Atlantic weather this part of the coast sometimes experiences. At the same time materials have been reused where possible or upgraded to better insulation properties to add to the overarching green environmental approach adopted for the project, with an estimated saving of 3.6 tons of carbon per year.
Westward Ho! Ward member and Northam Deputy Mayor, Councillor Nick Laws, opened the speeches thanking everyone for attending and for their collaboration in bringing the plans to life. He was followed by Stuart Brocklehurst non-executive director from the LEP and finally local MP Sir Geoffrey Cox who unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion. The plaque was revealed by drawing back a collage of discarded fishing net and plastic items that regularly wash up on the beach at Westward Ho! and elsewhere along the coasts around the UK. It allowed Sir Geoffrey to touch on the ecological challenges all coastal areas face and which the rangers hope to highlight through their educational programmes for children and installations in the exhibition spaces.
As well as the headline speakers the guest list included Councillors and Mayors from Torridge, Bideford, Gt Torrington, and Northam and also guests from partner organisations such as the AONB, and North Devon Biosphere. The partners will probably soon be making good use of the meeting rooms and offices for future events and activities. Architects and contractors, including many local firms were also represented at the event.
The Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Cox QC MP said:
“I am delighted to be here today to open this superb new Visitor Centre and to applaud all the hard work that has gone into its creation. I have special memories of the area in my youth having swum off the beach at Westward Ho! in the 1960s, and these buildings will be a wonderful enhancement of the experience of the Burrows for locals and tourists alike. I also hope and believe that the £1.6 million invested from the Government’s regional investment funds could, and should, be the start of something much bigger in Torridge where we see even more investment in our area. I will be doing everything in my power to make sure Torridge has the right support for its future aspirations, such as our Levelling Up Fund bid for Isaac’s Yard in Bideford, and the regeneration of other sites throughout the district.”
Karl Tucker – Chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said:
“It’s great to see the new Northam Burrows Visitor Centre officially open, which will provide a fantastic facility for the area and hopefully encourage more people to visit and spend time enjoying the surrounding area. We are delighted to have been able to support the project with £400k from the HotSW LEP’s Getting Building Fund. This redevelopment provides a dynamic, hands-on space for the local community, schools and tourists and supports the centre to more effectively explore current issues such as climate change and coastal erosion.”
Torridge District Councillor Nick Laws – Ward Member for Westward Ho! and Deputy Mayor of Northam said:
“My family connection to the Burrows goes back to the 1970’s when my father-in-law became the first Northam Burrows ranger for the area. Something must have rubbed off as the current generations of our family are no less passionate about this fantastic resort and rare wildlife and plants preserved and protected on the burrows. The facilities at the centre will help educate the next generations of visitors and also offer a more modern level of comfort and refreshment for locals and tourists alike. Staycationers are already re-discovering the beauty of Westward Ho! beach and the centre will be an important part of that offering and anchor for the local tourism industry.”