Barnstaple is to get £2.2million in Government cash to bring the redevelopment of Seven Brethren closer to reality.

The North Devon Leisure Centre site is earmarked for housing. Picture: Andy KeebleThe North Devon Leisure Centre site is earmarked for housing. Picture: Andy Keeble

The money from the Land Release Fund will be divided between roads infrastructure and flooding mitigation works to make it possible for up to 245 new homes to be built on the current leisure centre site.

It is part of a £20.5m cash injection announced today (Friday) by housing minister Dominic Raab, designed to kick-start the building of almost 2,500 new homes in the region.

The Barnstaple bid was submitted by North Devon Council and leader Des Brailey said £1m of the money would be earmarked for roads and £1.2m for raising the level of the flood defences to ensure the area was suitable for residential development.

The council is aiming to create a new leisure centre as part of the Tarka Tennis Centre site and Seven Brethren had originally been earmarked for a retail and leisure development with a cinema, hotel and restaurants.

In December the council announced a new master plan to put houses on the site and shifted the focus for the entertainment, restaurant and tourism facilities to the Queen Street site.

Mr Brailey said: "We are conscious that we don't want to detract from the town centre, so out plans are that we would be looking more towards residential possibilities for Seven Brethren, with some commercial."

Of the Government money, he said: "We are delighted and I would also like to thank our officers Ellen Vernon and Sally Nelson for putting forward the bid for this, as well as Peter Heaton-Jones, who helped see it through."

He said this was on top of recently receiving £8.5m towards education and infrastructure for housing developments at Westacott in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe's southern extension.

He added: "Getting this windfall will help us be able to achieve our objective of getting best value along Seven Brethren to help us with the new leisure centre, it's all interlinked."

The council is hoping to start work on the new leisure centre next year, ready to open in 2020.

The council also aims to keep Barnstaple Fair on that side of the river, on land alongside the recycling centre that would also serve as an events area with car parking.