North Devon is a local government district in Devon, England. Its council is based just outside Barnstaple, the district's largest town. The district also includes the towns of Ilfracombe, Lynton and Lynmouth and South Molton along with numerous villages, seaside resorts and surrounding rural areas.

North Devon District
North Devon shown within Devon
North Devon shown within Devon
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth West England
Non-metropolitan countyDevon
StatusNon-metropolitan district
Admin HQBarnstaple
Incorporated1 April 1974
 • TypeNon-metropolitan district council
 • BodyNorth Devon Council
 • Member of ParliamentIan Roome (LD)
 • Total419.3 sq mi (1,085.9 km2)
 • Rank23rd (of 296)
 • Total100,505
 • Rank243rd (of 296)
 • Density240/sq mi (93/km2)
 • Ethnicity
97.9% White
Time zoneUTC0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
ONS code18UE (ONS)
E07000043 (GSS)
OS grid referenceSS5586233371

The east of the district includes part of the Exmoor National Park, and the district's coast is also recognised for its natural beauty, forming part of the North Devon Coast, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The district borders Torridge to the south-west, Mid Devon to the south-east, and the neighbouring county of Somerset to the east.

The term "North Devon" can also be used to describe a wider geographic area than the local government district, often including neighbouring Torridge District, based in Bideford.[1]



The district was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. The new district covered the area of five former districts, which were all abolished at the same time:[2]

The new district was named North Devon, reflecting its position within the wider county.[3] Since 2009 the council has styled itself "North Devon Council" rather than its full formal name of "North Devon District Council".[4][5]


North Devon Council
Founded1 April 1974
Helen Walker,
Liberal Democrats
since 27 March 2024[6]
Ian Roome,
Liberal Democrats
since 18 May 2023[7]
Ken Miles
since 2019
Seats42 councillors
Political groups
Administration (22)
  Liberal Democrat (22)
Other parties (20)
  Independents (10)
  Conservative (7)
  Green Party (3)
First past the post
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
6 May 2027
Meeting place
Brynsworthy Environment Centre, Roundswell, Barnstaple, EX31 3NP

North Devon Council provides district-level services, including the administration of council tax and local benefits, the provision of car parking services, the collection of refuse and the recycling of waste, planning and building control, housing services, the provision of sport and leisure facilities, environmental services, business-related services and contingency planning. The council also runs and maintains the North Devon Crematorium.[8] County-level services are provided by Devon County Council.[9] The whole district is also covered by civil parishes, which form a third tier of local government.[10]

In the parts of the district within the Exmoor National Park, town planning is the responsibility of the Exmoor National Park Authority. The district council appoints two of its councillors to serve on the 22-person National Park Authority.[11]

Political control


The council has been under Liberal Democrat majority control since 2019.

The first election to the council was held in 1973, initially operating as a shadow authority before coming into its powers on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[12][13]

Party in control Years
Independent 1974–1987
No overall control 1987–1991
Liberal Democrats 1991–2007
Conservative 2007–2011
No overall control 2011–2019
Liberal Democrats 2019–present



The leaders of the council since 1991 have been:[14]

Councillor Party From To
Malcolm Prowse[15] Liberal Democrats 1991 2007
Michael Harrison[16] Conservative 2007 2009
Des Brailey Conservative 2009 2011
Brian Greenslade[17] Liberal Democrats 2011 2015
Des Brailey Conservative 2015 5 May 2019
David Worden Liberal Democrats 16 May 2019 18 May 2023
Ian Roome Liberal Democrats 18 May 2023



Following the 2023 election, the composition of the council was:[18]

Party Councillors
Liberal Democrats 22
Independent 10
Conservative 7
Green 3
Total 42

The independent councillors and Greens sit together as the "North Devon Independent Group".[19] The next elections are due in 2027.


Lynton House: Council's customer service centre in Barnstaple
Barnstaple Civic Centre: Council's headquarters until 2015.

The council's main offices are at the Brynsworthy Environment Centre near Barnstaple (the building is in the parish of Fremington). The council moved there in 2015, having previously been based at the Civic Centre on North Walk in Barnstaple, which had been built in 1969 as joint offices for two of North Devon's predecessor councils, Barnstaple Town Council and Barnstaple Rural District Council.[20][21] The council's main customer service centre is located at Lynton House, Commercial Road, Barnstaple, and it also maintains area offices in Ilfracombe and South Molton.[22]



Since the last boundary changes in 2019, the council has comprised 42 councillors representing 25 wards, with each ward returning between one and three councillors. Some wards are coterminous with civil parishes, though most consist of multiple parishes or parts of parishes. Elections are held every four years.[23] The following table lists the electoral wards of North Devon and the associated civil parishes.

Ward Civil Parishes No. of councillors
Barnstaple Central Barnstaple (part) 1
Barnstaple With Pilton 3
Barnstaple With Westacott 3
Bickington Fremington (part) 3
Bishop's Nympton 1
Bratton Fleming 1
Braunton East Braunton (part) 2
Braunton West & Georgeham 2
Chittlehampton 1
Chulmleigh 1
Combe Martin Combe Martin 1
Fremington Fremington (part) 2
Heanton Punchardon 1
Ilfracombe East Ilfracombe (part) 3
Ilfracombe West Ilfracombe (part) 2
Instow 1
Landkey 2
Lynton & Lynmouth 1
Marwood 1
Mortehoe 1
Newport Barnstaple (part) 2
North Molton 1
  • Barnstaple (part)
  • Tawstock (part)
South Molton South Molton 3
Witheridge 1

Towns and parishes

Parishes of North Devon

The whole district is covered by civil parishes. The parish councils for Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Lynton and Lynmouth, and South Molton are styled "town councils". Some of the smaller parishes have a parish meeting rather than a parish council.[24][25]



North Devon is popular with retired people. The 2011 census showed that 18% of residents were aged 15 years and under, 60% were aged 16–64 and 23% were aged 65 and over. This compares to the 20% of the population who were aged 65 and over when the 2001 census was taken. For comparison, the same age distributions across England were 19%, 64% and 17% respectively.[26] Life expectancy for men, at 77.7, is close to the English average. Female life expectancy is good at 83.1, around 1 year above the English average.[27]

There is a gap of six years in the life expectancy of men in the least deprived fifth of wards and the most deprived fifth.[27] The region has one of the most ethnically homogenous populations in England, with 97.9% reporting their ethnicity as 'white' in the 2011 census of the population.[28] However, this is a decrease on the 99.0% of the population who declared themselves to be white on the 2001 census.



Along with its neighbours to the east, West Somerset, and west, Torridge, North Devon has fairly sparse transport links. The Beeching cuts in the mid-sixties left the branch line to Exeter as the area's only railway service. Despite being served by only one railway line, the district is served by 5 railway stations, which is a large number, comparable with more urbanised boroughs such as Plymouth and Mid Devon. However sizeable settlements of Braunton and Ilfracombe as well as Bideford are cut off from the Network Rail system.

The district is served by three A roads. The primary link is the A361 (known locally as the Link Road) which was constructed between 1986 and 1989. It heads north-west from the M5 motorway, past South Molton, to Barnstaple. From here the A361 classification continues northwards along older roads to Ilfracombe, and the modern Link Road continues westwards from Barnstaple as the A39 where it is designated the Atlantic Highway, and runs via Bideford into Cornwall. The eastern section of the A39 links Barnstaple to Lynton, then crosses the northern coastal hills of Exmoor into Somerset.

The other two A roads in North Devon are the A399, a minor local route between Ilfracombe and South Molton (used as a de facto Barnstaple-bypass to Ilfracombe and Woolacombe), and the A377, which is the main road between Barnstaple and the county town of Devon, Exeter.

Due to significant peak time traffic delays in Barnstaple, and severe congestion at both peak and non-peak times in the summer when tourist traffic is at its busiest, the Barnstaple Western Bypass was opened in 2007.



North Devon is some distance from the UK's traditional areas of industrial activity and population yet boasts some major manufacturing sites that export around the world, among them TDK Lambda and Pall Europe in Ilfracombe, Eaton Aerospace and Norbord in South Molton, Perrigo in Braunton and multiple businesses in Barnstaple. Due to the historically agricultural nature of the economy alongside a strong tourism industry employment can be seasonal. As a result, some areas of North Devon are considered deprived. The overall average income for the district is 80% of the average for the United Kingdom as a whole.

The 1989 opening of the new Link Road connection to the motorway network helped to promote trade, but it had a temporary detrimental effect on a number of distribution businesses. The latter had previously viewed the town as a base for local distribution networks, a need that was removed with an approximate halving of travelling time to the M5 motorway. The region adapted: in 2005 unemployment in North Devon was 1.8–2.4% but in 2018 unemployment in North Devon had come down significantly since its 2010 high to 1.1%. Median weekly full-time pay is £440 per week, the average house price is £230,000 and the number of businesses registered has increased to 4895, up 370 from 2010. 2018 has seen significant Government investment in the area through Coastal Community grants and Housing Infrastructure funds, as well as £83 million to further upgrade the North Devon Link Road.[29]

Barnstaple is the main shopping area for North Devon. There are many chain stores in the town centre and in the Roundswell Business Park, on the western fringe of the town. Tesco has several stores in the area, including a Tesco Extra hypermarket, a large Tesco superstore. There is also a Sainsbury's superstore, a Lidl supermarket. The multimillion-pound redevelopment of the former Leaderflush Shapland works at Anchorwood Bank, and the surrounding area, is creating a conservation area near the River Taw, hundreds of new homes, a commercial retail area with new shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. A new Asda superstore and petrol filling station is part of the redevelopment. The new Asda store opened in November 2016.[citation needed]

The largest employer in the region is local and central Government. The two main government employers in the area are the Royal Marines Base Chivenor, 3 miles (4.8 km) west of the town, and North Devon District Hospital, 1 mile (1.6 km) to the north.

Ilfracombe, seen from 447 feet (136 metres) above. The viewpoint (Hillsborough) is part of the South West Coastal Path



Barnstaple is on the River Taw estuary, and functions as the main service centre for North Devon. The parish of Barnstaple had a population of 97,214 at the 2011 census.[30] The wider Barnstaple Built-Up Area was estimated to have a population of 32,411 in 2018,[31] whilst the Barnstaple Town Area, which contains satellite settlements such as Bishop's Tawton, Fremington and Landkey, has a population of 46,619 (as of 2020).[32]

See also



  1. ^ "Visit North Devon and Exmoor". Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  2. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Definition) Order 1972",, The National Archives, SI 1972/2039, retrieved 31 May 2023
  3. ^ "The English Non-metropolitan Districts (Names) Order 1973",, The National Archives, SI 1973/551, retrieved 31 May 2023
  4. ^ "North Devon District Council". Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  5. ^ "North Devon Council". Archived from the original on 2 June 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  6. ^ "Council minutes, 27 March 2024". North Devon Council. Retrieved 10 May 2024.
  7. ^ Clarke, Lewis (23 May 2023). "North Devon Council appoints MP-hopeful councillor Ian Roome as leader". Devon Live. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  8. ^ "North Devon Council". North Devon Council. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Local Government Act 1972",, The National Archives, 1972 c. 70, retrieved 31 May 2023
  10. ^ "Election maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  11. ^ "Members". Exmoor National Park. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  12. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  13. ^ "England council elections". BBC News Online. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Council minutes". North Devon Council. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Tories get control of North Devon". BBC News. 4 May 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  16. ^ Harris, Lauren (24 October 2017). "Tributes to 'generous' former leader of North Devon council". Devon Live. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  17. ^ Richards, Alex (5 July 2018). "Who is Brian Greenslade? The former council leader who sexually harassed and abused women". Devon Live. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  18. ^ "Local elections 2023: live council results for England". The Guardian.
  19. ^ Clarke, Lewis (6 June 2023). "North Devon's Greens and Independents unite to challenge Lib Dems". Devon Live. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  20. ^ Cooper, Joel (6 January 2020). "Council is 'finalising sale' of one of Devon's ugliest buildings". Devon Live. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  21. ^ "Visit us for a public meeting". North Devon Council. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  22. ^ "Contact our Customer Services Team". North Devon Council. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  23. ^ "The North Devon (Electoral Changes) Order 2018",, The National Archives, SI 2018/1178, retrieved 23 June 2023
  24. ^ "Election Maps". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 1 June 2023.
  25. ^ "Parish council contact details". North Devon Council. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  26. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "2011 Census - Ethnicity". Government of the United Kingdom.
  29. ^ "Barnstaple (Parish, United Kingdom) - Population Statistics, Charts, Map and Location". Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  30. ^ "Barnstaple (Devon, South West England, United Kingdom) - Population Statistics, Charts, Map, Location, Weather and Web Information". Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  31. ^ "Barnstaple profile". Communities. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2020.

51°04′52″N 4°03′29″W / 51.081°N 4.058°W / 51.081; -4.058