New chapter in Barnstaple's regeneration

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New chapter in Barnstaple's regeneration

Posted: 10/01/2007 11:43:55

Leaders of Devon County and North Devon District Councils say discussions they are having about working more closely together will be of enormous benefit to Barnstaple and to the town's regeneration programme, which could be about to enter a new exciting chapter.

Devon County Council and North Devon District Council have today revealed discussions that could unlock the prime location on the north bank, currently occupied by the nine-storey Civic Centre, to significant redevelopment opportunities.

Barnstaple is fast becoming a focus for inward investment and regeneration. The multi-million pound Western Bypass and magnificent bridge over the Taw is nearing completion. North Devon District Council's Local Plan sets out considerable regeneration opportunities, including retail and community uses, leisure and quality residential developments, and a new North Devon College

In a joint statement, the Leaders of both Councils, Cllr Brian Greenslade and Cllr Malcolm Prowse said:

"A tremendous opportunity faces us. Barnstaple is moving into a new era with regeneration of the town and significant investment in infrastructure, and with that we want to improve the efficiency of our services and make it easier for people to access these services.

"The Civic Centre, with its nine separate reception areas over many floors, is no longer fit for purpose. The building is expensive to maintain, it is not used to capacity, it has a considerable maintenance backlog, and it is environmentally unsound. It is clear that continued occupation of the building in its current condition is not tenable in the long term.

"The County and District Councils, and other partners, are exploring opportunities of working closer together to provide a single point of access to front line services from a central location, as they are already doing in Ilfracombe and South Molton, and relocating back office services from the Civic Centre.

"By integrating front line services to a new site and relocating back office services, we would be creating a much more efficient and welcoming way of accessing services, and we would be releasing prime redevelopment space and potential to move forward with Barnstaple's regeneration programme.

"No final decisions have been made yet, but we are talking through the options with partners including the Magistrates Court, who share the Civic Centre, and Devon and Cornwall Constabulary who have an adjoining building."

The announcement follows a review by the County Council of properties it owns and leases in and around Barnstaple, which includes the Civic Centre. The review concluded that the Civic Centre is not performing to acceptable environmental standards; with problems of summer warming, winter cold spots and heat loss that are exacerbated by the building's exposed position.

The County and District Councils plan to introduce new ways of working- making much better use of technology, flexible working, home working, and management methods - which would enable Officers to work efficiently from other locations, and open up other opportunities for the public to access multi-agency services.

That would mean providing back office services in a different way, which would result in far less car journeys by Officers being made into the centre of Barnstaple.

The option of refurbishing the Civic Centre is being explored but because of the nature of the building, any refurbishment or adaptation will be a costly solution.

Devon County Council's Leader,Cllr Greenslade, said:

"Doing nothing with the Civic Centre isn't an option because of the condition it's in. Refurbishment's possible and we'd need to consider the value and cost of doing that. But it's unlikely when you consider the alternative and considerable benefits of creating single points of access to Council services from somewhere central and accessible, the huge development potential of the Civic Centre site and its position in the town's regeneration, and that through better ways of working we won't need the space in future.

"We also know, from the Our Town public consultation that Devon County, North Devon District and Town Councils conducted in 2005 about what people want in Barnstaple, that it would be a popular move to relocate and allow redevelopment of the Civic Centre site. The building doesn't score highly on the beauty stakes, and the public were quick to suggest alternative uses for the site to take advantage of its riverside location.

"If relocation from the Civic Centre is our final choice after discussion with partners, then we would aim to make the move over three to five years."

North Devon District Council's Leader, Cllr Malcolm Prowse, said:

"For years people have been telling me that the Civic Centre is an eyesore - it is the most unpopular building in North Devon. We have the opportunity to bulldoze this monstrosity and provide a user-friendly and easily accessible new facility for advice, information and services.

"We hope to build on the already agreed plans to work together for new customer advice centres in Ilfracombe and South Molton. These ideas will bring our services closer to people."

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