North Devon Council has thrown its hat in the ring to a new garden village community of several thousand homes in the area.

The council has today (Tuesday) lodged an expression of interest to the government for funding to create a new settlement that could potentially have around 5,000 new houses.

A new village would be a completely separate settlement but would be intended to strengthen Barnstaple as a regional centre.

Council leader Des Brailey told the Gazette said if they had not bid to be included in the Homes England Garden Communities programme North Devon could have been bypassed, but he stressed it was an expression of interest at this stage.

He said: “The detail will follow later and the councillors will debate that and decide if they are happy with it and what Homes England will require.

“What we must emphasise is that several of the houses that go to make up this number are already in the planning, so it’s not 5,000 extra houses, we are going to wrap it all up together.”

The first stage of the bid would be to seek ‘seed funding’ to develop a business case that would then include detailed site proposals and what infrastructure was needed.

Mr Brailey added: “Infrastructure is the major stumbling block – we can’t just go into it without working out how we are going to deal with roads and all the other things that go to make up the infrastructure.”

Barnstaple mayor Ian Roome welcomed the bid and said it was ‘a no brainer’. He said: “I think it is an opportunity for North Devon to draw down much-needed funding from central government to help us improve the infrastructure around Barnstaple.

“Not only would the money help improve the infrastructure, it would also create opportunities for employment and keeping the younger generation here.

“We would need to work in collaboration with local councils so although this would want us to have more homes in future years, we must direct funding to increase the capacity of our road network, as well as GP surgeries, schools and other essential services the population will need.”