Councillors are to be given an ultimatum on whether to go ahead with plans for more than 200 homes at Seven Brethren in Barnstaple.

North Devon Council’s strategy and resources committee is being asked to decide whether or not to press on with the scheme for the leisure centre site which was awarded £2.2million of the Government’s Land Release Fund.

A planning application for the site was on the verge of being submitted before the coronavirus pandemic struck, but was held back because of the outbreak.

The plan proposes up to 245 homes, with a mixture of apartments and three-storey town houses on the site of the current centre and existing long-stay car park, which will be moved.

A report to the committee, which meets on Tuesday, September 1, said the impacts of Covid-19 meant it was ‘necessary to sense check’ the way forward for the site.

The masterplan for the Seven Brethren site. Picture: LHC DesignThe masterplan for the Seven Brethren site. Picture: LHC Design

If councillors agree to progress the scheme, a procurement process will need to start immediately.

The £2.2million funding cannot be transferred to another site, so if councillors opt to scrap the scheme it will have to be paid back.

The report by regeneration manager Sarah Jane Mackenzie-Shapland said: “Covid 19 has disrupted the economy, which is officially now in recession, and the negative impact of the pandemic is likely to continue for many years.

“Covid 19 triggered a temporary halt to development and the housing market. Whilst the Seven Brethren site is likely to be impacted no more or less than other residential developments opportunities it has taken considerable time to bring it to this point and the first detailed tender process using the Homes England delivery partner panel was unsuccessful.

“The timeline for progressing this project is now pressing if the Land Release Fund grant is to be utilised, therefore, officers are seeking members’ endorsement to pursue the existing scheme.”

If the plan is scrapped, the council will have to find a way to demolish the existing leisure centre building and launch a new project to ‘consider options’ for the site.

The £2.2million funding was awarded to North Devon Council in 2017, with £1million secured towards highway junction improvements, and £1.2million towards delivering flood defences and raising site levels.