Plans to transform part of The Strand in Barnstaple into a riverside beer garden look set to be refused when it goes before councillors next week.

J D Wetherspoon hope to change the use of the land opposite its pub, The Water Gate, into a drinking area with 84 tables, a bandstand-style seating area and sail kite umbrellas, all enclosed by metal fencing.

North Devon Council’s planning committee will determine the plans on Wednesday (March 13), when it meets at Barnstaple Rugby Club.

Planners have recommended the application is refused, with fears it would lead to an increase in anti-social, disorderly or criminal behaviour.

There are also concerns patrons and staff crossing the road between the beer garden and the separate Water Gate pub would lead to ‘an increase in confrontation and conflict’ with motorists and cyclists.

How the proposed beer garden on The Strand will look.How the proposed beer garden on The Strand will look.

It also cited use of the land - which is currently a seating area with pathways, benches and a redundant fountain - would result in a loss of public open space and would negatively impact the town’s heritage assets and conservation area.

The outdoor area would be gated and open from 8am until 11pm, with staff monitoring the area at all times.

There would also be CCTV to cover the area and furniture would be removed outside of the opening times.

North Devon Council’s economic development team has been looking to utilise the area since 2016.

A representation from the team in support of the application said: “It has always been the ambition of North Devon Council to create a vibrant and busy leisure space along The Strand, making the most of the water frontage and historic architecture.

“The area along The Strand is currently under-utilised and with the new development at Anchorwood Bank the town centre is shifting towards the river. The area has the potential to be a real draw for those looking to eat, drink, relax and enjoy events in the town.”

The application has drawn concerns from the police though. Devon and Cornwall Police’s designing out crime officer, Rick Napier, said: “Patrons, some distracted and likely under the influence of alcohol, exiting the Watergate to walk across the road to the beer garden will have the perception that this is a ‘pedestrian zone’ closed to traffic, which in turn is likely to lead to an increase in confrontation and conflict with motorists and cyclists.

“The close proximity of the estuary wall will raise the risk of individuals, some intoxicated, exiting the beer garden to sit on the wall and drink.

The Watergate, owned by JD Wetherspoon, on The Strand in BarnstapleThe Watergate, owned by JD Wetherspoon, on The Strand in Barnstaple

“Consideration should therefore be given to the inclusion of suitably approved water safety equipment being installed and available to use.”