Barnstaple is set to embrace friends in Scandinavia with the signing of a new twinning agreement.

Barnstaple is set to embrace friends in Scandinavia with the signing of a new twinning agreement.

The town is on the verge of finalising an agreement with the Norwegian town of Harstad, which has long provided winter training facilities for marines based at RMB Chivenor.

A signing ceremony is expected to take place in mid-April, when representatives from Norway will visit Barnstaple for the first time.

Harstad is of similar size to Barnstaple, with a population of 24,000. It is situated in the Troms region, in the north of the country and enjoys midnight sun in June.

The Mayor of Harstad, Marianne Bremnes, told the Gazette: "This is the right time to make the agreement between Harstad and Barnstaple.

"It will be extremely important to us in Norway that the UK marines find Harstad such an important part of their work."

Alan Gracie, chairman of Barnstaple Twinning Association, also welcomed the move and said Barnstaple would become the first town in Devon to twin with a Scandinavian town.

"Twinning Agreements always have a better chance of success if there are already strong links between the two towns concerned," he said.

"This is certainly true of Harstad, where the Royal Marines from Chivenor have been conducting their cold weather warfare training annually for a number of years, and have built a good relationship with the local community."

Plans started to take shape last year when Barnstaple mayor Val Elkins was approached by Chivenor's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bob Baxendale, about cementing links between the towns.

Mrs Elkins said she was 'delighted' with how work was progressing on the agreement.

Barnstaple is already twinned with Barnstable in the USA; Stadt Uelzen in Germany; Trouville in France; and Susa in Italy.