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Hundreds of new homes included in Okehampton boundary change

Okehampton town's boundary has been extended (in blue). Image courtesy: West Devon Borough Council

Boundary between town and hamlets was 'long standing' issue

Hundreds of new homes are to be included in the new official town boundary of Okehampton.

The controversial proposal has gained the support of West Devon Borough councillors. They claim the move will create “community cohesion”.

Seven hundred homes on the eastern edge of town are currently within the Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council area but this will change when local elections are held in May 2027.

Okehampton Hamlets will retain a large rural area with working farms, the army camp and parts of Dartmoor whilst Okehampton Town Council will have all big developments including what has been referred to as "the urban sprawl".

In a community governance review carried out by the borough council another option of merging Okehampton Town Council and Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council was dropped because of the urban and rural differences.

An advisory group set up by the borough council to recommend options said it was “disappointed” by the low turnout in two rounds of public consultations.

Most people who did respond favoured an amended boundary rather than the status quo.

But the proposal, instigated by the town council to give Okehampton increased status, a greater voice and a fairer spread of council tax as people currently living inside the Hamlets area use the town’s amenities but don’t pay for them – created friction between the two councils.

The Hamlets wanted to keep the urban eastern edge of Okehampton, claiming changes would result in an increase in council tax for its current residents, fewer councillors to represent residents and less money for community grants that help local groups.

Members of the advisory group said they had sympathy with the Hamlets and its concerns over its viability, but said that the amount the parish receives from council tax is comparatively low and incremental increases could take place over time because the boundary change would not come into effect until 2027.

They said the boundary was “a long standing” issue which had never been addressed or tackled.

It was recognised that extensive development had taken place to the east of the town and work is underway to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) for Okehampton, focused on creating an interesting and vibrant centre. From an economic perspective, they said they didn’t support retaining the status quo.

Councillors agreed that the two authorities should work more closely to benefit their communities.

Cllr Paul Vachon (Ind, Okehampton South) who represents both wards said due to the very rural nature of the hamlets and the urban town, one council for all would be “difficult” and the rural members would probably have less say.

He added: “Our role will be to mediate both councils and no doubt it will be some sort of symbiotic relationship in that they work together to make both councils viable.”

The vote was won by 20-0 with five abstentions.

The council will now make a reorganisation of community governance order which will come into effect from May 2027 with elections for town and parish councils.

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