Exciting plans to revitalise Barnstaple town centre

Joseph Bulmer

Council prepares to re-market ‘key sites’ to potential developers

PLANS are moving forward to help boost Barnstaple town centre and improve the shopping, leisure and cultural facilities in the town.

As well as an independent study being carried out into the retail and leisure needs of the area, North Devon Council is also preparing to re-market land at Queen Street, Bear Street and Seven Brethren.

Pending the approval of a report at next month’s Executive committee meeting, the council will also be holding a full community consultation to find out what local people want to see in the town.

Executive Member for Economic Regeneration, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, said: “I’m really excited that we are now in a position to follow up plans that we’ve had on the back burner, to deliver a positive and clearly defined strategy for the town centre.

“We believe this will make a really positive impact on the economy of North Devon as a whole.”

Cllr Prowse said the council wanted to strengthen what the town already had in terms of its good variety and balance of national and independent retail, particularly around the Pannier Market and Butchers Row.

“We hope these plans will bring in some good external investment, to give Barnstaple the boost it needs,” he added.

The council said it had been having positive discussions with a variety of major organisations, including retailers, leisure operators, developers and investors, who are showing interest in the town centre.

This includes British Land, who bought the Green Lanes Shopping Centre for �30million in February this year.

The council said the company was “keen” to improve and modernise the centre although a spokesperson for British Land said there were no specific details to report at this stage.

Peter Woodley, asset manager for the council, said: “The council first pursued marketing plans for the Queen Street and Bear Street area in 2008 following several years of discussion and investigation.

“However, the crash in the economy and the wider credit crunch halted those plans being developed at that time.

“Despite this, it’s encouraging to know that we have had and are continuing to get a constant stream of enquiries about key sites in the town and we are therefore confident that the time is right to bring them forward.”

The independent retail study is likely to start in the autumn and be completed by spring 2012.

Work has already begun on the council’s community consultation plan, which will involve all those with an interest in the town, including residents, visitors, Town Centre Management and local businesses.

All of the findings will be used to help steer the development of the town centre sites.