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In August 2020 the council was invited by The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSW LEP) to develop a business case to bid for additional funding from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for the watersports centre project. It was selected as a suitable project because it was 'shovel ready' with the council being able to demonstrate that it would create jobs, support economic recovery across the South West and that spending on the project would be complete by March 2022.

Following a successful funding bid, the council secured additional £1.5m to help finance the project which is set to be a state-of-the-art marine leisure hub. The watersports centre will include community facilities for local clubs including storage for boats, a slipway providing safe and easy access to the water within a given tidal range, disabled access and facilities, and a café with stunning views of the harbour.

The new Community Watersports Hub is located in Larkstone Cove nestled between Rapparee Cove and backed by cliffs of Hillsborough with sea views, overlooking the South of Ilfracombe Harbour with a sandy beach and seasonally moored boats. The facility is being constructed adjacent the South West Coastal path leading down from Hillsborough.

After a successful tender process, Pearce Construction was contracted by the council to take on the build in early 2021. The watersports centre is expected to be completed by July 2022.

Initial building works began in early April, with major works commencing in June. This involves construction of a new sea wall eight metres beyond the existing one. 

The centre's primary purpose is to provide new homes for three local watersports clubs, Ilfracombe Gig Club, Y-Sail and Ilfracombe Canoe Club. This new facility will allow them to extend their memberships to the wider community and offer taster events to local residents and visitors.

Another important aim is to provide a site which can be used by the wider community, enabling the public and organised groups to pre-book watersports activities through a new Commercial Watersports Communications Hub.

The hub will enable local businesses with links to watersports to be part of the centre, offering use of the slipway, storage, shower and welfare facilities, as well as designated trailer parking and interactive advertising/booking facilities -either as part of the Larkstone site or within the wider northern Devon community.

Local businesses will be encouraged to sign up to the hub to enable them to access the facilities and make the most of the opportunity to encourage watersports in north Devon. To ensure compliance with harbour bye-laws and health and safety, use of the slipway will be managed by the Harbour Master and her team. 

The council is now advertising for an operator to run the café facility, with the aim of getting them on board during the build period so the café can be fully operational as soon as the facility is open.

Interested parties should download a copy of the 'expression of interest' information leaflet (pdf. 731KB) which sets out all the information they need to provide.

Or contact our Property Services team by email or telephone 01271 388377.

A section at the top of Marine Drive is closed to through traffic to enable the new Community Watersports Centre to be built at Larkstone.

During the construction period, the 'mushroom' car park at the top of Marine Drive is closed for car parking and is used as a secure works compound for the construction contractor, although pedestrian access has been maintained.

For walkers, the coastal footpath has been diverted, up and over the steps into Larkstone car park and up and around Larkstone Lane.

The existing slipway will also be closed for access to and from the sea until the construction is complete.