PLANNING officers say housing developments in Barnstaple could generate more jobs and bring tens of millions of pounds of public money to the area.
An extra 4,000 homes have been identified in the Torridge and North Devon draft local plan to be built in Barnstaple up to 2031.
The plans have prompted outrage from hundreds of residents who have formed several action groups campaigning against the developments.
But speaking to the Journal this week, planning officers Graham Townsend, Mike Kelly and Andrew Austen said the proposed developments would have a positive effect on the town.
One argument put forward by the Larkbear Action Group regarding an application for 800 homes is that the type of housing does not meet the demographic and more one-bedroomed homes are needed.
But Mr Townsend said a lot of houses are under-occupied, which people are entitled to do.
“There is never a perfect match between demand and supply,” added Mr Kelly. “And most people will always want at least one spare bedroom.”
Another argument put forward is there is not enough employment to support the additional housing.
But officers said the extra people will generate more jobs.
“We have also spoken to employers, specifically in Ilfracombe,” said Mr Townsend. “We have said what sort of housing do you need to accommodate the people you want to work here, and that is what we are basing our figures on.”
Mr Kelly said a lot of the people who will be migrating to North Devon are likely to be “economically inactive” or retired, meaning they will generate employment, particularly in the leisure industries.
Additional traffic has also been raised as a concern but Mr Austen said improvements will be made to counteract this.
“There are planned works to Roundswell which are due to start next year,” he added. “There will also be tens of millions of pounds of section 106 money coming to the local authority which will be spent on improvements.”
Officers also responded to fears that the cumulative effect of all the developments is not being considered.
“They are not being looked at in isolation,” assured Mr Kelly.
Mr Townsend added: “We have to try and manage change so it can be as painless as possible.”
He said people should try to be positive about the impending developments.
“If you look back 50 years Barnstaple was something very different,” he added.
Campaigners voice concerns at council meeting
A CAMPAIGN group with more than 300 members is still concerned about a development for 800 homes in Barnstaple.
The Larkbear Action Group was due to raise its concerns by asking two questions at a meeting of North Devon Council last night.
Speaking to the Journal before the meeting, group chairman Don Pratt said: “We aren’t convinced there is the need for these houses. We do not think there is the economic argument for it. Where are the jobs?
“We also don’t feel the houses are going to be within the right price range for a lot of people.”
Group member Stuart Watson-Davies said the houses are likely to create more problems.
“We recognise the need for housing, but not at these levels,” he said.
“They are not accurate for the demographic, they have just gone with a figure.”
An increase in traffic was also a concern for the group, as well as maintaining North Devon’s character. “The bottom line is what sort of North Devon do we want?” said Mr Pratt.
“Do we want one with a large urban core or do we want to try and preserve the unique character of North Devon?”
The group proposed to ask two questions at a full meeting of North Devon Council last night relating to the size of proposed houses and managing the effects they may have on infrastructure.
Mr Pratt said: “There are six or seven groups like us all saying the same thing and there has got to be a significant council response to this.”