About North Devon


North Devon is a parliamentary constituency covering a vast area from the beaches of the north coast to the hills of Exmoor, right down to the rural heart of the county.  Its boundaries mirror those of North Devon District Council.

The biggest town by far is Barnstaple (above), a busy administrative, shopping and service centre and an important transport hub for the whole region.  The town has expanded rapidly in the last 20/30 years, with large housing estates and retail parks spreading out from the historic centre.

The next biggest population centres are Ilfracombe on the north coast, Braunton to the west of Barnstaple, and South Molton at the heart of the rural southern part of the constituency. Then there are many villages and hamlets scattered throughout the area.

North Devon is home to a higher-than-average proportion of people over the age of 60, and the aging population means increasing challenges for the provision of health and social care in the years to come.

Most working-age people are employed in the public, retail and leisure sectors, although there are many thriving small businesses making goods, providing services and creating jobs across the region.

Tourism is particularly important in the coastal regions, with Ilfracombe, Combe Martin and Lynton & Lynmouth being the main destinations on the north coast.  To the west, the increasingly-popular surf culture is a vital part of the seasonal economy in places such as Braunton, Croyde and Woolacombe.  Visitors are also important to the villages in Exmoor National Park.  But the region's tourism has faced challenging times recently, because of both the economic climate and the British climate!

Agriculture is by far the biggest land-user and is a vital economic factor throughout the area. However, in North Devon as elsewhere, many of the rural communities face difficulties as local services diminish and rising house prices prevent young families from settling in the villages.

Transport has always been an issue.  North Devon in general and Barnstaple in particular were once synonymous with traffic jams, especially at holiday times. The North Devon Link Road (officially the A361) has now created a much faster link between the M5 and Barnstaple, and a new bridge and bypass to the west of the town have helped traffic heading for the coast.  But there are still many A-roads which are single carriageways and can be slow at peak times.

Rail services are provided on the scenic 'Tarka Line', linking Barnstaple with the main line at Exeter.  This is now running at close to capacity and needs further investment and expansion. A vital economic link and a cornerstone of North Devons' connectivity with the rest of the UK.

Another major issue is planning & development.  Statistics show that many new homes are needed in the area, but there is much disagreement about where they should be built.  And proposals to erect wind turbines, both in the countryside and off the coast, are also the cause of increasing debate and division.

Peter Heaton-Jones represented North Devon as MP between 2015 and 2019, standing down at the General Election in December. North Devon is the past has elected both Conservatives and Liberals.  The most famous former MP is ex-Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, who in the 1970s faced trial for conspiracy to murder.