Yesterday, North Devon heard the devastating news that one of the region’s largest employers, the Appledore Shipyard, is going to close by the end of March 2019.

Quite rightly, this story got regional and national coverage and was described as a “kick in the teeth” for North Devon and as a devastating blow to the local economy.

Politicians of various hues gave their opinions to the media and fingers were variously pointed at Babcock and the Government. It would appear that even a £60m contract from the UK Government has not been enough to secure the shipyard’s future.

Over 9000 people (I was one of them), signed a petition to the Government which was delivered on Tuesday of this week, but to no avail.

So a rich and proud history of shipbuilding in Appledore that dates back to 1855 appears to be coming to an end. This is very sad and distressing news for the employees and their families, many of whom have put down their roots here in North Devon. Babcock is suggesting that it will do its best to offer the Appledore workers employment at the Devonport Yard, a 90 mile round-trip. The closure will also have a knock-on effect on other local shops and businesses which are part of the supply chain for the Yard or which are simply establishments where the shipyard’s workers spend their money.

It is hard to know what we can do as individuals here in North Devon when something awful like this happens. Clearly we cannot save the yard or conjure up contracts that would secure employment in Appledore. What we can do though is to stand by those local people whose lives have been affected by this news and we can also pledge to buy as much of our daily produce as possible from local shops and businesses. It is, of course, so easy and convenient to buy things online and have them delivered to our front doors but these transactions rarely bring significant financial benefit to North Devon; more often than not they add to the bottom line of huge transnational corporations.

There is a challenge here to all of us who live here in North Devon; but let’s do what we can to spend our money locally to help support local businesses, many of whom will be adversely affected when the Appledore Yard closes in March. As Christmas approaches (yes I have used the C-word for the first time in 2018) let’s try and be imaginative and shop locally. You could start by coming along to the Kingsley Christmas Fayre ( on Saturday 24th November (10am – 3.30pm) when there will be dozens of local businesses selling gifts and other items.

Come along and spend hard for the sake of our local and regional economy!

Pete Last