WEST Devon Borough Council has become the latest public body to lend its support to Dartmoor National Park Visitor Centre in Princetown – as it pledged thousands of pounds to help keep it open this summer.

Councillors voted at their full council meeting on Tuesday afternoon to make a grant of £78,500 on the proviso that it is used to ensure that the visitor centre is kept open until September 2023. The money has come from the New Homes Bonus, money given to the authority by the Government in return for allowing housing development in their area.

Council leader Neil Jory, proposing the move, said: ‘We have generally passed on the New Homes Bonus to the national park authority so this contribution seems like an appropriate response at this time.’

The grant was made as part of WDBC’s budget for 2023/24 voted through unanimously. The popular Dartmoor National Park Authority facility in Princetown had been due to close at the start of this year, as the DNPA struggled to balance its costs, blaming a shortfall of half a million pounds each year in its funding from Defra. However, the shock announcement sparked such an outcry in Princetown because of the vital role the centre plays in the village economy, that the DNPA has drawn on reserves so the centre can stay open until September. WDBC is supporting this move.

Meanwhile, Torridge and West Devon MP Sir Geoffrey Cox is joining the DNPA in lobbing Secretary of State for Defra Therese Coffey to release funding for the visitor centre in the medium term. He met with Defra minister Trudy Harrison just before Christmas, who promised to look into the possibility of additional funding.

DNPA chief executive Dr Kevin Bishop is also in talks with the the Duchy of Cornwall, which owns the visitor centre, over whether changes to the lease which might allow other funding to be sought. Another possibility is for the centre to be sited elsewhere within Princetown. Dr Bishop recently said that no decision would be made until the six months were up when a final decision would be taken on the visitor centre. This could buy time for Defra to come up with alternative funding.‘Authority membrs have approved the use of reserves to fund the continued operation of the visitor centre for up to six months from the end of March,’ he said.

‘We hope that this will provide time for Defra to confirm whether they will be able to confim any additional funding and to continue to the work on alternative ways to deliver a visitor centre offer in Princetown that delivers the required financial savings.’