A new e-scooter scheme for North Devon is set to be trialled in Barnstaple in the new year.

North Devon Council (NDC) has been granted a license by the Department for Transport (DfT) which will allow it to pilot the use of e-scooters in the district.

It has been working with Petroc and e-scooter company Voi Technology to develop its proposals, and a trial is planned to start in Barnstaple in 2021.

The scheme aims to tackle transport challenges, particularly improving access to Petroc, which sees more than 4,000 pupils travelling to its campus in Sticklepath each week.

The council also hopes it will help during the tourism season, reducing traffic congestion and pollution.

NDC’s lead member for economic development and regeneration, Councillor Malcolm Prowse, said: “We are pleased that we have been granted a licence agreement and we look forward to working with Voi and Petroc to take further positive steps towards a successful trial phase.

“This includes addressing the safety concerns and needs of other road users, especially vulnerable groups. Close planning and collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Police will also go a long way to ensuring the safety and viability of the trial over the 12-month period.”

Petroc vice principal Bill Blythe said: “We are delighted that the DfT has recognised the opportunities that this pilot could bring to North Devon. We look forward to working with the council to develop this proposal to a successful launch in the new year and the benefits it will bring to students, staff and the wider community.”

Guidance from the DfT says e-scooters will be allowed the same road space as cycles, meaning they will be allowed on the road and in cycle lanes and tracks.

Users need to be covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy and have a valid driving licence.

Co-founder and CEO of Voi Technology, Fredrik Hjelm said: “We are excited to be bringing Voi’s e-scooter service to the beautiful coastal area of North Devon.

“I believe rural areas can benefit from this new green mode of transport, particularly those with large student or business campuses or with seasonal influxes of population.

“I am confident residents and visitors will enjoy this new liberating form of transport.

“E-scooters are a safe, low-carbon way to move around and a great alternative to car journeys. As the pandemic continues people are keen to find new ways to go about their journeys and e-scooters are a great socially distancing option.”

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby said: I am delighted that this trial is going ahead. I met with Voi as part of my work as co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking and introduced them to Petroc, who with North Devon Council have done a great job in progressing this scheme.

“As part of the Government’s 10 point plan for the environment we must hope for considerably more investment into low carbon transport solutions.

“I am already in discussions with businesses wanting to invest in the Green Economy here in North Devon, which could provide hundreds of new jobs.”