District council responds to town council criticism of vision for riverside restaurants and cinema

The leader of North Devon Council has responded to criticism that plans for the redevelopment of Seven Brethren have been ‘plucked out of the air’ and would ‘further decimate’ the viability of the town centre.

Barnstaple Town Council also said the district council had failed to consult with town councillors over its vision for the site, which includes new riverside restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.

But district council leader Des Brailey told Gazette he was confident the council was pursuing the right strategy for Barnstaple.

In a letter to the Gazette, said: “We are excited about the future opportunities for Barnstaple. The town is the sub regional centre of North Devon performing well with the scope to attract more significant investment.

“Much like Barnstaple, Dorchester, Trowbridge and Hereford are all strong market towns serving a rural catchment. They have all seen investment in edge-of-centre development sites in the last few years – Brewery Square in Dorchester; St Stephen’s Place in Trowbridge; and Old Market in Hereford.

“The schemes have all included retail, restaurant, residential and cinema uses, in differing combinations. Our Economic Development Team has personally visited each location and met with local stakeholders, either the local authority or town centre manager, in order to understand how each development scheme came forwards and the impact it has had on the town centre and wider town.

“In all cases this has been positive for these towns. As well as this, we are aware that Taunton is developing a similar mixed use edge of centre scheme at Firepool.

“On the basis of Barnstaple’s current performance and the strategies being undertaken by similar towns I am confident we are pursuing the right strategy for Barnstaple. Indeed, not to be seeking to develop the town in this way is likely to be detrimental to Barnstaple town centre’s future performance.

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

“To help with parking we have appointed consultants to work on a car parking strategy, Jones Lang Lasalle working with Hydrock. This work will be expected to be completed by the end of June/July 2017.

“In terms of the development of Seven Brethren and traffic issues, we are aware of current traffic movements and have had a number of discussions with Devon County Council Highways. Detailed work on a transport assessment and a responding transport strategy to support the development of Seven Brethren will be undertaken as part of the work to bring Seven Brethren’s exciting plans forwards.

“I would agree that there is merit in considering the options for the civic centre site. This site is not owned by us but we would welcome further discussions with Devon County Council, who own the site, on this matter.

“Officers from our Economic Development Team would be happy to come along to a future or a special Barnstaple Town Council meeting to discuss the town council’s concerns.”

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

Do you agree with North Devon Council? Are a new cinema and restaurants at Seven Brethren the right vision for Barnstaple? Email your thoughts to newsdesk@northdevongazette.co.uk