Restoration of dry dock creates noise and tourism fears
THE restoration of a dry dock has divided opinion in a North Devon village, with fears of sleepless nights, diminished business and decreased property values.
Richmond Dock in Appledore has been restored to working condition by owner Simon Maunder, but has yet to receive its first vessel.
The site had previously been earmarked for a housing development, but after public objections and a planning inquiry that option was ruled out.
Mr Maunder has since ploughed a six figure sum into making the site a working dry dock which will restore vessels as well as dismantle them.
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But some people living near the dock think it is bad news for Appledore, fearing tourists will be put off.
Kevin Jones, whose property overlooks the dock, said the restoration work had already created noise and dust, before any ship breaking had started.
He said: "The trouble is the time for making ships has gone.
"I have met holidaymakers who are going home because of the noise.
"I have spent a fortune on our property, never thinking the dock would reopen after being closed for 20 years.
"When I came down here in 1980 it was mayhem all the time and that is what it will be again. It can't be portrayed as a sleepy fishing village.
"I have heard them at 4am before, working with their lights on, making noise. I have been keeping a diary.
"Our cars have all been covered in dust because of what they have been doing in the dock."
Penny York, who runs a bed and breakfast in the village said: "I think local people have been hoodwinked. The reality is this is going to be a breaker's yard.
Mrs York said the Environment Agency was considering issuing a permit which would allow up to 21,000 tons of metal a year to be scrapped.
She said this could mean the equivalent of 700 lorry loads a year – or two a day – leaving on Appledore's narrow roads and up past the primary school.
"This is a fantastic village but it relies primarily for its income on tourism now," she said.
"Will families really come near to an industrial site where goodness knows what noise and dust and contaminants will be thrown up into the air and potentially into the river?"
But Jackie Avery, the chairman of the Appledore Resident's Association, said the return of the dry dock was exactly what the village needed.
She said: "We are just hoping they get their environment licence.
"This is creating proper jobs. A bunch of flats would make us look like Westward Ho!
"Appledore is not St Ives. It is not a pretty holiday village, it is a working village which is open all year around."
Mr Maunder, who preferred the option of building apartments, said: "We went though a three-year process to decide what to do.
"It is absolutely not going to change now, why would I have spent all that money?
"The dock will turn over in excess of £1 million a year from which overheads will come back into the village.
"So far only locals have been working on the site. Everyone seems to have a fear of the noise but not one has tested that. It is simply anticipated noise.
"The noise and mess so far have been part of restoring the dock. The dust came from relaying the surface with concrete so that won't happen again now because it is all resurfaced."
Mr Maunder said he was currently waiting for the licences from the Environment Agency before work on the first vessel could begin. The agency confirmed the licence was due to be permitted this week.