DRINKING fountains for key locations in Torridge won’t be going ahead any time soon as there is no evidence they help the climate emergency, it has been claimed.

Despite a drive in cities like London and Hull to install water fountains and their subsequent popularity with the public, councillors were told there are other issues to consider in rural areas including the cost, potential vandalism, footfall and hygiene.

In Northam Burrows the fountains might be frequented by sheep!

Torridge District Council‘s community and resources committee decided it isn’t worth £44,000 over 10 years for five water fountains as it couldn’t be guaranteed they would reduce single-use plastic waste.

The recommendation for water fountains had come from the authority’s climate change working group which was concerned that on average people use 120 single-use plastic bottles a year and only seven per cent of bottles are recycled.

However, there is “no hard evidence” that fewer plastic water bottles are bought after water fountains are installed.

Cllr Peter Hames (Green, Appledore) said in 2022, 10 million plastic bottles of water were consumed every day in the UK and as water stations are also refill facilities, they can wean people off plastic.

He proposed Victoria Park in Bideford, Castle Hill, Torrington, the Northam Burrows Centre and Stanhope Park, Holsworthy as priority sites.

But Cllr Chris Leather (Ind, Northam) said there is no demand from the public for such fountains and that people could use a free app to find refill stations, with 19 cafes or shops in Bideford and 20 in Westward Ho! where people could fill up.

“Why would we take on another capital expense when there is no demand just because the climate group is scratching around for things to spend money on,” he said.

Respondents to an online article about the idea generally showed opposition, with people saying money is better spent on things like public toilets.

Officers said there was no identified funding in the budget nor outside funding opportunities for the water stations.

Councillors decided not to proceed with the water fountains but will hold a review if funding becomes available. But they agreed to support World Refill Day.

Alison Stephenson