South Molton Neighbourhood Plan – SMBA Draft Document

Development for a Thriving Economy 

sm copyCurrent situation:

South Molton is a rural service centre with a handful of large national and international businesses, SME’s and start up businesses plus a tourist industry. The highest proportion of employees currently work in Manufacturing (27.5%), then wholesale (15%) followed by healthcare (10.4%) (Source a).

South Molton is a living, working community, where there is a wide range of services available to local people and visitors. These services provide local employment; there are fewer employees in farming and land based activity than in the past. A number of people commute into and out of South Molton, for work from other areas of Devon and Somerset using the North Devon Link Road and M5, typically to the Pathfields industrial estate located on the north side of South Molton. Up to March 2017 there were 47,000 people economically active in North Devon. (Source b)

Household incomes in and around South Molton are below the average for North Devon by about £1000 pa (Source c) with the average gross weekly pay across North Devon of £437 vs. a national average gross weekly pay of £541. (Source d).

Future Vision

The Neighbourhood Plan aims to improve the opportunity for existing and new businesses within South Molton by influencing local planning decisions to ensure a strong and diverse economy.

  • Promote the town as a good place to work or set up a business.
  • Encourage employers to take on apprentices and recruit locally.
  • Retain local independent business, whilst appreciating there can be a balance with larger retailers.
  • Make South Molton a place where entrepreneurship is encouraged and welcomed.
  • Encourage new businesses to provide training and employment to local people.
  • Encourage service sector companies to relocate to Pathfields Industrial estate.
  • Encourage larger employers to open enterprises in South Molton.
  • Encourage start up businesses to locate to Pathfields.
  • Encourage higher skilled and higher paid industries into our area.

How is this going to be achieved?

Through the Neighbourhood Plan, we believe that there will be further employment opportunities in tourism, retail, hi-tech and current business expansion, as well as home based businesses and care services.

South Molton needs to attract a broad mix of businesses, both large and small, that will offer full and part time employment, with wider career opportunities, whilst also encouraging entrepreneurial, start up businesses. We need local employers to take on apprentices and recruit locally, through the cooperation between business and education.

Expansion of the Pathfields industrial estate will be key to achieving these objectives, through the provision of flexible office space, serviced offices and work hubs to meet the growing needs of businesses and start ups that invest in South Molton. (Source g)

Further tourist attractions need to be developed, to ensure that South Molton becomes a destination for holidaymakers, not just passing through, or visiting for a day.

It is envisaged that there will need to be a programme of proactive and dynamic measures including financial incentives to attract, encourage and invite businesses to our area and provide opportunities for private sector investment. Profiling successful local businesses of all sizes will demonstrate the opportunity that South Molton and its catchment area can provide.

We need to be tailoring our offering to all working generations from the Baby Boomers (motivated by position, perks, and prestige, and who define themselves by their professional accomplishments) to the current Generation Z (entrepreneurial, innovative problem solvers seeking purpose-driven work that meets social change and a desire to travel while working). (Source e).

Transport links are vital to the success of South Molton economy. There are no rail links and with an intermit ant the bus service, all transport links rely on the road infrastructure. The Link Road/A361 is vital to the North Devon economy to grow and develop. Investment and job creation will suffer if the A361 is not improved after 20 plus years of no investment. The North Devon Profile report, commissioned by Devon County Council in February 2014 (Source f) highlighted that North Devon had ‘poor road and rail connections limiting its links with major urban economies such as Exeter and Plymouth. Due in part to the economic importance of Barnstaple to the district, there is a net inflow of workers into the district. According to the 2011 Annual Population Survey 8,223 people commuted into the district to work, whilst 4,769 residents commuted out of the district – providing a net inflow of 3,454.’ Improved road safety, road signage and access are all required.

It will of course be imperative that the character and charm of South Molton is retained (avoiding out of town supermarkets) preserving the diverse array of independent retailers contained in the high street and events in the historic Pannier market.

Draft by: Suzanne Brown, Peter Bright

Covering Comment 

‘The position South Molton holds regarding the prosperity of North Devon is key. It already provides varied employment and is a place where people commute to work. There is a unique opportunity, with the release of land for commercial development, to attract new businesses to our area. It is important that innovative industries are nurtured and enticed into our already rich business environment. To fulfil the employment needs of North Devon we need to provide more than just seasonal minimum wage jobs. South Molton needs to attract a broad mix of specialised industries (like tech companies) and lower skilled, worthwhile jobs that can lead to better things, better job satisfaction, training and full time employment. We must avoid creating an ‘out of town’ centre and nurture a holistic approach to our town, new industries and developments should compliment and bring value to the unique centre of South Molton and not detract from it’

Peter Bright Chair SMBA

October 2017



(a & c)

(b & d)



(g) Attached letters from Peter Heaton-Jones MP dated 15th Sept 2017 to SMBA

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