Devon town centre ‘not a nice place to be’

Barnstaple town centre has been described as ‘messy,’ ‘unsafe,’ and ‘not a nice place to be’ in emails sent to a local MP.

Ami Wyllie www.devonlive.com

The revelation comes as Conservative MP Selaine Saxby announced findings from a months long survey asking where locals would like to see £6.5 million spent in North Devon’s ‘retail capital.’

Results from the survey showed that locals were in support of a budget dedicated solely to restoring, cleaning and maintaining Barnstaple town centre.

Constituents have told Ms. Saxby that they actively avoid the town’s centre due to its run down appearance.

Ms. Saxby said the ‘Broken Window Theory,’ which suggests that scruffy and unkempt neighbourhoods lead to crime and disorder due to their ‘social neglect,’ summarises the rapid decline of Barnstaple.

Work with Barnstaple in Bloom has been a short-term solution to the issue and Devon County Council and North Devon Council have both been invited to see the positive impact a ‘small amount’ of money can do.

Ms. Saxby hopes the Government’s investment will help put the centre of North Devon back on track as thriving hub, but know that financial backing is only the beginning.

She said: “This will not solve all the problems we are currently seeing like littering and anti-social behaviour”.

She added: “Barnstaple town centre needs to adapt and be a social destination, a place to spend time and not just money.”

While her survey found a lack of interest in pedestrianisation of the town centre, there was overwhelming support for improved public transport links, including the Barnstaple to Exeter train link.

Having a visible ‘front desk’ for the NHS, local Police and North Devon Council in the centre of town was also a highly supported idea.

Ranked as the most ‘economically vulnerable’ neighbourhood out of all 457 that Devon County Council look after, Barnstaple was awarded the funds as part of the Government’s ‘Future High Street Fund.’

Ms. Saxby has welcomed this funding, and wants to find creative ways to best spent the money and ‘build back better,’ while warning that a one-time lump sum is not a total fix.

She said: “The Pannier Market, Butchers Row, and the Boutport Street entrance to Queen Street car park are the current focuses of the Government and North Devon Council’s investment.

“These should not, however, be the only focuses.

“Investment and changes need to encompass and benefit the whole of the town centre and while I am encouraged with what is happening, we cannot wait around for the next big funding round.

“I will continue to lobby for government investment, but we do need our councils to do more, and we can all play our part by supporting the town centre, buying local when we can, helping keep Barnstaple clean and tidy, and reporting anti-social behaviour.”

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