A Reader Writes re Barnstaple Bus Station

Dear Letters Editor,

North Devon Council (NDC) leader and would-be MP, Ian Roome, clearly meant to say that the toilets at Barnstaple bus-station – closed for more than three years at the region’s biggest transport hub – ‘will’, not ‘could’ reopen by Easter. Anything less would be more than a slip of the tongue – surely?

The £11m – yes, million – the council is currently spending in the area’s largest town under the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) will be wasted unless it leads to an increase in Barnstaple’s footfall. For that to happen, and for the town to flourish economically and socially, it must be easily accessible by public transport. The £500k already earmarked for knocking down a wall to link together two car parks may literally count as a ‘structural’ change under FHSF guidelines but hardly fulfils its aim of ‘future sustainability’, while refurbishing Pannier Market and doing other bits and bobs around town is hardly ’transformative’.

Facilitating private at the expense of public transport rather than the refurbishment of the council-owned bus station – a 5-minute walk from the eastern end of Barnstaple’s historic High Street – is shameless (a case of finding something to soak up FHSF money?). Cllr Roome – part of whose job is ‘to lead the development of council strategy and services to meet community needs’ – has acknowledged that ‘Active travel is paramount going forward for many reasons [and] we do not have a bus service that is meeting the needs of our isolated communities’ (personal correspondence).

Barnstaple bus station cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Neil Owen – geograph.org.uk/p/7644437

So what’s the scorecard to date? To end the isolation of the rural residents to whom the council leader refers, a functioning, well-serviced bus-station is the only way to go. It doesn’t need a café to take away business from High Street’s many hospitality outlets. As for a ‘health facility’ – what use would this be to regional residents who can’t get to town? A once-weekly shuttle bus between Torrington and Barnstaple just doesn’t cut it. This is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth – or even the twentieth. A simple plan – not a top-down revenue-raising scheme for the local authority – is what’s required. FYI February’s Strategy and Resources Committee: here’s looking at you.

It’s over a year since regional Stagecoach bus-boss Peter Knight announced that ’there are some great opportunities to move more people out of their cars [and] I am determined to deliver a good and reliable bus service for our communities in the south west.

North Devon’s current population of over 98,000 is an increase of 5.3% on the 93,700 previously recorded 2011 figure. More than metrics, these stats represent real people, with actual lives, yet hundreds, possibly thousands have no direct access to public transport – the incomers have likely brought their private vehicles with them – nor to their area’s largest town.

This general-election year is an excellent opportunity for both local and regional councils to start talking with Stagecoach about an inclusive bus-service across North Devon. Their council-tax paying residents deserve nothing less.

Meg Howarth

19a Ellington Street
N7 8PN
Twitter: @howarthm

Jim Hunt

I've been programming computers since the late 60s. In those days they didn't have computers in schools, so we had to build our own. What can I program next? Will I have to build it first?

Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | SoundCloud | Wikipedia

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Meg Howarth

    Thanks posting, Jim – can also be read in current North Devon Gazette


    Devon County Council top dog in transport matters across the four constituent regions, so it’s disappointing to see the authority limiting public accountability by closing down its accessible @X aka Twitter account – no reason given.

    1. Jim Hunt

      Hi Meg,

      I can sympathise to some extent with people/organisations that no longer wish to be immersed in Elmo’s shiny new cess pit.

      However, as you say, a more comprehensive explanation than this from DCC would be nice:

      FYI I can also be found (now and then) at Mastodon: https://scicomm.xyz/@Jim_Hunt

      and/or Blue Sky: https://bsky.app/profile/jim-hunt.bsky.social

Leave a Reply

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded.