WITH just over a week to go until Heart FM closes its North Devon studio for good, support for a new local radio station is gathering pace. The producer of internet station Network North Devon said he has been overwhelmed by the interest shown in the new

WITH just over a week to go until Heart FM closes its North Devon studio for good, support for a new local radio station is gathering pace.

The producer of internet station Network North Devon said he has been overwhelmed by the interest shown in the new venture since its launch on July 4 this year.

And now, Barnstaple DJ Ian Starling hopes the on-line broadcast will be the first stepping stone to a new “truly local” North Devon FM radio station.

“The feedback to Network North Devon has been absolutely amazing and quite humbling really,” said Ian, who currently broadcasts the on-line show seven days a week with local presenters on weekends.

“I’ve had literally hundreds of emails in support of the station and I hope this is the beginning of a truly local radio station for North Devon people.”

Self-confessed “radio anorak” Ian – a former Lantern FM presenter from 1994 to 2008 – decided to start the station just days after Heart owner Global Radio announced a plan to merge its Devon stations into a central studio in Exeter. The Roundswell-based studio will broadcast its final shows next Thursday (August 26), with Breakfast presenters Paul Hopper and James Chapple, and drive-time’s Suse Rolfe all putting in their final shifts.

Ian has already been donated equipment and one month’s studio space. On Thursday, he applied to Ofcom for a 28-day Restricted Service Licence (RSL) to enable him to broadcast to listeners in FM.

“It will cost £3,000 before we even get on the air but this is the first stepping stone to a full-time radio station for North Devon,” he said.

“If the temporary licence proves successful, we can lobby Ofcom to allow a full-time Community Licence. This is unlikely to happen before 2011 but if we are successful, we can run a not-for-profit FM radio station, create jobs and give any money made to local charities and causes.”

To get the project off the ground, Ian is asking more than 2,000 followers of Facebook campaign “Bring Back Lantern FM and Save Hopps and Chapple” to each donate £1 to help cover the cost of the licence.

“We could be on air within weeks and if we get the opportunity to broadcast, we have to prove to Ofcom and the Government that a truly local radio station is viable in North Devon,” said Ian.

“We have to ensure that listeners are behind us and that businesses will support it through advertising.

“Heart will continue to broadcast and they will still do a professional job but it will not be local.

“I know though my job as a delivery supervisor for the Gazette that people want local news. Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth are all serviced by other radio stations but closing the Barnstaple studio leaves North Devon with no true local alternative. Here, we are left with Heart Devon or BBC Radio Devon.

“There is a real sense of belonging and community spirit in North Devon and it’s not the same here as Plymouth and Exeter.”

To listen to Network North Devon or donate money via a specially created Paypal page, visit www.networknorthdevon.co.uk