Barnstaple town centre is set to see a once in a lifetime £11m transformation, thanks to a successful bid for a share of government funding, supported by additional investment from North Devon Council. 

At an Extraordinary Council meeting last night (Wednesday 17 February), councillors agreed to invest £4.4m to support a £6.5m allocation from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's (MHCLG) Future High Streets Fund (FHSF). The FHSF is designed to be used to renew and reshape town centres and high streets across the country through schemes to improve experience, drive growth and ensure future sustainability. 

Barnstaple’s FHSF bid was submitted to MHCLG in July 2020. The council requested £9.45 million for four projects in the town, which would provide a direct link from the Queen Street/Bear Street car park to the Pannier Market, high street and through to the river front. Together, the improvement projects form the ‘Market Quarter’, which was developed with the aim of transforming the town into one where residents have access to good quality retail, leisure and open spaces, local businesses thrive in fit-for-purpose spaces and visitors want to visit and spend money. The council was awarded 69% of its bid and will borrow the shortfall in the budget to enable all four projects to be completed.

The Market Quarter project will address a derelict listed building and façade on Boutport Street by regenerating the listed building and providing a new gateway directly from the car park through to Butchers Row. The project also incorporates a plan to pedestrianise (10am-4pm) and make improvements to Butchers Row and Cross Street and aims to maximise the opportunities within the Pannier Market and the Guildhall with options to redefine the space and improve facilities within. When combined, these proposals will give a new heart to Barnstaple, making it a unique destination that will boost footfall to the high street and provide an enhanced experience for residents and visitors.

Lead Member for Economic Development and Strategic Planning Policy at North Devon Council, Councillor Malcolm Prowse says: "We are excited to be part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to transform Barnstaple town centre. We are confident that borrowing this money is the right decision for North Devon as it will enable us to embark on an exciting course of improvements for Barnstaple, starting with the Markets Quarter, which is brilliant news for everyone who lives and works in the town, not to mention our tourists and visitors."

Local Ward Member Cllr Robbie Mack says: "We need a bold and ambitious project so Barnstaple can become the social and economic hub it should be. It will connect the whole town centre and provide more welcoming access for pedestrians and car park users to a newly revitalised Market Quarter. It's a sustainable plan to safeguard the town's future in the long term.”

The Market Quarter improvements were developed following extensive consultation with the public, local businesses and other key stakeholders who were asked their views on a number of proposals and given the opportunity to voice any changes and improvements they would like to see in Barnstaple town centre. The feedback from the consultation was then analysed by consultants Lavigne Lonsdale, who went on to develop the Market Quarter projects together with the council.

The fund from MHCLG is provisional at this stage and the council will now work with the government department to ensure the funding is secured and the project can be delivered by March 2024. 

More information on the future vision for Barnstaple is available on the council's website www.northdevon.gov.uk/barnstaple-vision.