Business in North Devon

North Devon has a coastline facing north towards the Atlantic and the Bristol Channel and is associated with surfing beaches and thriving market towns. There is a resident population of approximately 91,500, of whom around 55,000 are of working age, and the area has approximately 4,000 businesses.

Barnstaple is the large market town at the heart of North Devon, and is the hub for the area’s economic activity as well as the service centre for the wider northern Devon area, with the hospital, Further Education College, Leisure Centre and Theatre all located in Barnstaple.

Businesses in and around Barnstaple cluster into certain employment sectors. The biggest employers are the public sector, advanced manufacturing, retail, and business services. There are some significant larger private sector employers particularly in the advanced manufacturing sector, where employers include Actavis Pharmaceuticals (the 4th largest manufacturer of pharmaceutical products for the private label market, employing upwards of 650), SFL (manufacturing chimney flues), and Parker Hannifin (producing filtration products). Employment in the retail sector is significant in terms of job numbers, with Tesco, Sainsbury, and the collective town centre retail outlets being notable in terms of their role in the local economy. Business services are clustered in Barnstaple as the area centre, as would be expected, and include a wide range of professional and creative services.

As the significant retail centre in the locality, with 418 units in the town centre, Barnstaple is also important in terms of the leisure and tourism sector. The town is home to the Queens Theatre, the North Devon Leisure Centre, and Tarka Tennis indoor tennis facility. Aside form the town centre, the significant employment areas are found at Roundswell, the area’s most premium employment location, Whiddon Valley, with some larger manufacturers, and at Pottington, a larger and more traditional industrial site recently made more accessible through the opening of the Taw Bridge in 2007.

Ilfracombe is a traditional Victorian coastal resort which is enjoying a spectacular renaissance since the installation of ‘Verity’, a Damien Hirst artwork, on the Harbour. Damien Hirst is also working with landowners on the southern edge of Ilfracombe to develop an innovative mixed use development which will deliver up to 1000 houses plus employment space.

The most important sectors in terms of employment for Ilfracombe are tourism (accommodation, food & drink and leisure), fishing and marine leisure businesses, and manufacturing. The town has a number of good quality tourism and leisure assets including a contemporary theatre, a strong food economy, and some successful local privately run leisure businesses, including the Tunnels Beaches and Ilfracombe Aquarium. There are two large advanced manufacturing companies within the town; Pall and TDK Lambda, both manufacturers of high specification components.

Ilfracombe has a very specific opportunity as the nearest port to the proposed Atlantic Array offshore windfarm. As a leading port on the northern coastline of the South West peninsula, Ilfracombe also provides opportunities to support other marine renewables, such as tidal, as well as marine leisure and marine transport.

South Molton, well located on the A361, has an agricultural heritage but has attracted other business sectors through the provision and promotion of employment space in recent years, notably at Pathfields Industrial Estate. Key sectors include business services, manufacturing, retail and rural and agricultural products and services, with Mole Valley Farmers head officed here.