The Bridge Buildings were intended to be sold as part of the programme to transfer all of TDC’s staff to one site at Riverbank House. Instead options were examined for TDC to redevelop the Bridge Buildings as flats for either rental or resale.
These plans were presented to the Council at its AGM on May 14th. Some councillors expressed the view that developers had made profits from the sale of former council assets, and that the council should have these profits rather than the property developers.
I felt that this was a rather naive view and overlooked several key points. Businesses make profits as the reward for taking a risk. In any business there is the risk that costs can get out of control, or that nobody wants to buy your product. The business may not make a profit. Indeed it may make a loss.
Torridge District Council is a council, not a property developer. If it tried to develop the Bridge Buildings and it went wrong it wouldn’t be its money that would be at stake – it would be almost a million pounds of public money. Looking at the uncertainties of the project, that was too big a risk for the council to take with your money.
The Bridge Buildings will be difficult for anyone to develop. They’re Grade 2 listed, surrounded on all sides, and only have staircase a lift. Planning permission would never have been granted for proposals for mixed use – a restaurant and flats could not share a common staircase and lift. The best thing to do is put the buildings on the market and let realising them be someone else’s problem. If they make a profit from the endeavour, then they’ll deserve it.