Plans to reduce the number of CCTV cameras in North Devon have been approved by councillors.

North Devon Council’s executive has agreed a series of changes to come into effect on May 1.

Councillors heard this would reduce the cost of an expensive service while directing resources to the areas of most need.

The council is still speaking to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner about a solution for the service long-term, as it had committed to support authorities that wished to invest in CCTV.

A report to committee followed a public consultation and an extensive review.

The changes will see cameras positioned in locations where they are most needed, based on the number of incidents.

There will be a reduction in operating hours, with the CCTV control room in Barnstaple staffed only during hours of most need.

Cameras will continue to record around the clock, and CCTV staff will continue to support the Barnstaple Against Retail Crime (BARC) and Barnstaple Against Night-time Disorder (BAND) schemes.

The council said the service currently provides coverage from 85 cameras, 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week.

It said due to the age of the equipment, the cost was high, and while there was a very positive relationship with the police, they did not contribute financially towards the service.

Council leader Des Brailey said: “The CCTV review concluded that the service is highly valued by many, and it is an essential tool in the detection and prevention of crime. However, it’s a very expensive service and there are some weaknesses due to the age of the equipment. The changes we are making to the service are an interim step to achieving a cost effective, compliant service while we pursue a larger partnership project.

“We are exploring the longer term options with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner which has set out a commitment to support local authorities that wish to invest in CCTV systems. Ilfracombe Town Council have explored an interim measure prior to our final solution, however, they are keen to explore future solutions with North Devon Council and the Police and Crime Commissioners office.”

Leader of the independent group, Councillor Mike Edmunds added: “I am glad that the district council is exploring the long term options. In the meantime, Ilfracombe Town Council were shown, at their last council meeting, the cameras that will cover Ilfracombe High Street.”

Shadow NDC leader Brian Greenslade said: “It should be recognised that NDC is still considering options, so no conclusions at this time.

“Therefore, I am surprised the executive went ahead and agreed reductions in coverage effective soon, instead of waiting until the final conclusions are decided.

“I am raising the issue at the next meeting of the NDC scrutiny committee which I chair.”

But Mr Brailey responded: “We have taken the opportunity to create a significant saving whilst at the same time maintaining a similar level of service.

“The minor changes made do not prejudice the overall review, which has been ongoing since 2016 when O&S approved a public consultation exercise.

“Without wanting to prejudge the outcome of the review, that public consultation exercise supported an overall reduction in provision but with cameras concentrated on where they are most needed.”