Council’s move to vacate the building inspires design for modern riverside apartments.

ARCHITECTS have outlined radical new plans for the future of the civic centre in Barnstaple.

Following last week’s Gazette front page story about North Devon District Council’s plans to vacate the Devon County Council-owned building, local property experts say the riverside spot could provide much-needed homes in the area.

Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believe it could provide up to 84 apartments, as well as community facilities including a gym, fitness studio, crèche, meeting rooms and a rooftop café on the second floor.

It is envisaged that the car park along the riverside could be enhanced with planting and landscaping and there is even an idea to create rooftop gardens for residents.

Practice director Peregrine Mears said: “While there is not a lot of love locally for the civic centre, maybe the time is right to consider an alternative use that will take the building into the 21st century.

“We believe the building is capable of conversion to residential use. We have looked at the possibility of this in principle and believe it is achievable.

“The shallow plan form with windows on all sides allows lots of natural light into the building. What is more, the views are terrific.

“There are many unloved tower blocks from the 1960s elsewhere in the UK that have been given a new lease of life by converting them to residential use, so why not here?”

Mr Mears said the exterior façade could be re-clad to improve the appearance and reduce the building’s energy use.

“The combination of contemporary style, stunning views and on site facilities would offer an attractive alternative for anyone looking for somewhere to live in a smart urban environment,” he added.

The firm has produced an artist’s impression of how the building could look after its transformation and is keen to see how local people feel about the idea.

“We would like to start some public debate on the future of the building and would like to hear what your reader’s think,” added Mr Mears.

North Devon Council is expected to vacate the civic centre by the end of the year but Devon County Council say no decisions have been made about the future of the building.

A county council spokesman said: “It’s very early days. We understand that North Devon Council would like to vacate the building. We’re discussing that with them with a view to ensuring the interests of both organisations are achieved.

“As part of our estates strategy more broadly, we are continually reviewing all our properties including the civic centre and other properties in Barnstaple.”

What do you think? Email newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk, telephone 01271 345056 or write to us at Unit 3, Old Station Road, Barnstaple, EX32 8PB.