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Town council turns on district over vision for Seven Brethren

PUBLISHED: 22:41 27 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:57 28 February 2017

Do you think a new development at Seven Brethen would damage Barnstaple town centre? Picture: Andy Keeble

Do you think a new development at Seven Brethen would damage Barnstaple town centre? Picture: Andy Keeble

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Plans for riverside restaurants and multi-screen cinema would ‘further decimate’ viability of Barnstaple town centre.

A row has erupted over plans to build new riverside restaurants and a multi-screen cinema at Seven Brethren in Barnstaple.

Town councillors have expressed ‘alarm’ at the North Devon Council’s latest vision for the site and wider town centre.

At a full council meeting tonight (Monday), town councillors agreed that development on the other side of the river would ‘further decimate’ the viability of the town centre.

And they criticised the district council for failing to consult with town councillors over its vision for the site.

A motion proposed by Cllr Ian Williams – which also outlined concerns about the number of vacant buildings in the town centre; the possible loss of the Boutport Street cinema; and a lack of park and ride facilities – was carried 12-to-three in favour, with three abstentions.

Mr Williams said: “I feel this vision would hurt the town; it just seems to be an idea they’ve plucked out of the air.

“It’s our town and I feel we should have a positive contribution to make.”

Deputy mayor Ian Roome said the town council had approached the district council but had not been invited to be ‘actively involved’ in any discussions.

A draft plan of how the new Seven Brethren development could be laid out. Picture: North Devon Council A draft plan of how the new Seven Brethren development could be laid out. Picture: North Devon Council

“We need to be formally consulted as a town council,” he said.

“A lot of things are done behind closed doors and the district council needs to involve the town council and help make Barnstaple a more prosperous place.

“All we want is to build a better Barnstaple but we all need to work together.”

Also at the meeting in the guildhall, county and district councillor Brian Greenslade said he feared what might happen to the town centre.

A masterplan is being drawn up for Severn Brethren in Barnstaple. Picture: Austin Wallas A masterplan is being drawn up for Severn Brethren in Barnstaple. Picture: Austin Wallas

“I’ve nothing against the aspirations of the district council for Seven Brethren but it’s how you do it and the effect on the town centre,” he said.

“A lot of things have not been properly thought through – you’ve got to get your ducks in a row and I don’t think that has happened yet.

“The Seven Brethren developments will take some time to come to fruition and what I do fear is that we see a period when investment in the town centre is stymied as a result.”

But not everyone agreed with the motion. Cllr Martin Kennaugh said he was ‘disappointed by Cllr William’s ‘pessimistic view’ of the district council’s plans.

He argued that the town was already thriving with the arrival of new retailers and that development at Seven Brethren would ‘go a long way to enhancing and further invigorating’ the town.

“The Seven Brethren site is a prime space to widen the offering available to residents and visitors alike,” he said.

“Of course, there will be problems to be solved – and parking and highways are bound to be high on that list – but I would hope that the town council could embrace the plans of the district and work with them to help solve any problems and ensure that Barnstaple can grow and thrive.”

Do you agree with Barnstaple Town Council? Would a new cinema and restaurants at Seven Brethren damage or enhance the town centre? Email your thoughts to newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk

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