Barnstaple’s Civic Centre could become council offices, the design of some retail areas is ‘wretchedly poor’ and the town’s food and drink offer is ‘disappointing’ according to a ‘vision’ report.

The empty Barnstaple Civic Centre coudl be 'council offices' according to consultants. Who would have thought it? Picture: Sarah HowellsThe empty Barnstaple Civic Centre coudl be 'council offices' according to consultants. Who would have thought it? Picture: Sarah Howells

The comments have been made by consultancy Lavigne Lonsdale, commissioned by North Devon Council to help prepare a vision for the town.

A report based on the findings went to NDC's strategy and resources committee on Monday, August 5.

Among its findings was that the vacant Civic Centre would benefit from 'some form of institutional use' such as a district council office or college.

The revelation comes several years after the district council and then county council moved out and the building is currently up for sale.

The vision document for Barnstaple will now go out to consultation. Picture: ContributedThe vision document for Barnstaple will now go out to consultation. Picture: Contributed

The report said the design of the edge-of-town retail areas such as Anchorwood Bank and Seven Brethren was 'wretchedly poor'.

It spoke well of the town's 'rich collection of historic buildings' and said its High Street was complemented by the historic Pannier Market.

But it also branded 'many' of the independent businesses as 'of indifferent quality' and said a number operated out of 'tired looking premises'.

And the report said: "Barnstaple's shopping, food and drink and cultural offer is relatively prosaic."

It said when consultants visited the town centre was busy and Barnstaple was well placed to benefit from the expected population growth.

The 'vision' project is set out in three stages - the first 'baseline analysis', followed by a public consultation and then stage three would set out the final town centre vision and recommendations.

Councillors agreed a budget of up to £40,000 to proceed with the second stage of the vision, which would cover consultation with the community.

Lavigne Lonsdale has outlined 17 proposed improvements. These include a masterplan for the long-debated Queen Street and Bear Street car park area 'mixed use' development.

It suggests The Strand and waterfront area could become a focal point for visitors.

A new pedestrian and cycle bridge from Anchorwood to The Strand - on the wish list for some time - is also proposed.

It says the area around the Pannier Market and Butchers Row has a 'unique character' and the potential to become a focal quarter for shopping, arts, food and leisure.

The entire area around the Seven Brethren waterfront should be reviewed with a masterplan. The Cattle Market car park and Library Square could be re-designed.

You can read the full Barnstaple vision at https://northdevon.gov.uk/media/379530/barnstaple-baseline-document-rev_b_190617.pdf



The '17 point vision' for Barnstaple according to consultants

WHAT IMPROVEMENTS COULD BE MADE?

The junction between Rolle Street and the High Street is poor for pedestrian and cycle movement, so this could be improved to allow for easier connectivity into the Town centre retail area.

The Queens Street/ Bear Street Car Park has been identified within the Local Plan as an allocated mixed use site for re-development, and an overarching masterplan for the site should ensure that the character of the town centre is reflected and enhanced

Speak to institutional organisations in the local area (including universities) to ascertain if there is any scope for re-development of the Civic Centre building, which is currently partly empty and is for sale.

The Strand & Waterfront could have the potential to become a focal space in the town for residents and visitors, but the ground floor uses along the street do not however maximise the position nor potential for the leisure and entertainment value.

A new pedestrian/ cycle bridge from Anchorwood over the River Taw and to the Strand & Waterfront could help to lift the footfall in the area, and to carry out stakeholder discussions to define the preferred bridge location

St Anne's Chapel is a beautiful space but there are anti-social behaviour issues and loitering.

As a consequence, the space does not appear to get used as fully as it should, so through the Stage 2 stakeholder workshops, ascertain the issues and consider solutions.

The area around the Pannier Market & Butchers Row has a unique character and has the potential to become a focal quarter for independent shopping/ arts/ food/ leisure.

Consider the re-design of the Cattle Market car park and library square

Short, medium and long term projects should be considered to improve the navigation from the Railway Station and around Sticklepath Terracr

Review of the entire area around the Seven Brethren waterfront in the form of masterplan study

Consideration for a further pedestrian / cycle link to the east of Long Bridge to allow for good accessibility to the new leisure centre location.

As part of a longer term strategy, consider relocating or re-orientation the B&Q buildings and other sheds to create a better arrival experience from the train station

As part of the Local Plan, a new bridge link is proposed over the A3611 and railway line.

The south west coast path and Tarka Trail could have a diverted route to follow the alignment of the river and to tie into the new bridge link into the town centre.

The sports hub appears to be a well maintained and well used local facility for football, rugby and bowls, but further investment in facilities could enhance the provision.

The future Barnstaple to Lynton Railway stop could be a significant attractor for the town. Action, but further information on the proposals is required to fully understand the impact on the local area.

A Park & Ride site near the A361 is identified in the Local Plan needs further exploration with the Council to ascertain how and why it is necessary