President of Liberal Democrats Tim Farron visits North Devon
THE president of the Liberal Democrat Party kept North Devon waiting on Tuesday, when he paid a whistle stop tour to the area.
Tim Farron, MP for Westmoreland and Lonsdale in the Lake District, was due to visit Chulmleigh Community College, Elliot's Butchers in Bishops Tawton and the Forches regeneration project in Barnstaple before heading on to evening engagements in West Devon.
But when the rising star of the Lib Dems did arrive, almost an hour late, he was full of praise for two of North Devon's most innovative development projects.
Mr Farron said North Devon has "a lot to be proud of", not least Chulmleigh Community College, where he was shown the progress of building work on the school's new classroom block.
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"It's staggering," he said, "and an example of what should be done nationally.
"To see a school given the freedom to spend money and secure a better building for a quarter of what th county council would have spent is a brilliant use of taxpayers money."
The school's estates manager Terry Pullen agreed and said it was nice to be able to show senior government figures that was the case.
"It's always good to get someone like Tim down here," he said. "To show them what we can do and I think it's a national exemplar of what can be achieved when schools are given the opportunity to spend money for themselves."
Mr Farron was just as enthusiastic about the Forches regeneration project in Barnstaple, which he visited later in the day.
"It's an innovative idea that will improve peoples' lives.
"You've got this post war pre-fab development being systematically replaced with better homes that are cheaper to run.
"I want to steal these ideas and take them back to Cumbria."
It wasn't all positive news on Mr Farron's trip though.
While en route to Forches from Chulmleigh he stopped at Elliot's Butchers in Bishops Tawton to visit victims of flooding.
"That was a bit harrowing to see," he said. "This flooding happened on Christmas Eve and people are still suffering.
"The immediate reaction from the County Council, South West Water and the Environment Agency was poor and those three organisations need to stop passing the buck and take collective responsibility."