Welcome to the second edition of The Exeter Digest, Exeter Observer’s essential free email newsletter. Thanks for subscribing.
Feedback is most welcome: please feel free to reply to this email or otherwise get in touch with any comments or suggestions you may have.
EXETER’S LOCAL ELECTIONS ARE NEXT THURSDAY
Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote on 6 May.
This year all eyes are on Exeter’s city centre wards, all three of which were won by challengers in 2019. Will the Progressive Group of Green, Liberal Democrat and independent councillors build on its cross-party consensus to further challenge Labour’s dominance?
There might be trouble for Labour in the suburbs too, where Conservative John Harvey could unseat Labour Executive member David Harvey, and in Pennsylvania where the contest looks wide open.
Just don’t confuse Exeter’s John Harvey with comedian Jon Harvey, standing in the London mayoral election this year as “independent space warrior” Count Binface. Although who wouldn’t want a city centre parking policy based on the Monopoly board?
WHAT DO WE WANT? NET ZERO! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? 2030!
Devon Climate Emergency Response Group responded to its own Devon Carbon Plan consultation finding that a majority want net zero by 2030 by questioning whether a 2030 target is “realistic” and suggesting a “compromise position” on a decarbonisation date that “could be palatable to all of the organisations in the Devon Climate Emergency partnership”. This despite only 13% of consultees supporting the government’s 2050 target.
SOARING RHETORIC TO GRACE EXETER GUILDHALL ONCE MORE
A case seeking to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire next week failed to override the requirement for primary legislation. Exeter City Council will now hold its post-election annual meeting at the Guildhall on 18 May, with Devon County Council doing the same at County Hall on the 27th.
REPORT CONFIRMS “RELENTLESS” INTENSIFICATION OF CLIMATE CRISIS
2020 is set to be the equal warmest year on record despite cooling La Niña conditions in the Pacific, and the Internal Energy Agency warns that the post-pandemic economic stimulus is expected to drive the second largest annual increase in carbon emissions in history, with UK emissions set to overshoot the country’s 2030 target by 40%.
Our Earth Day report was an update on recent research from leading climate monitoring sources.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
THREE THINGS I LEARNED DURING COVID
A leading climate scientist’s perspective on what the community has learned over the past year about the interactions between the pandemic and the current and future global climate.
LINE OF DUTY?
Exeter Observer broke the news that Labour councillor Robert Lamb was disqualified from representing St David’s ward on Exeter City Council after attending none of the council meetings at which he was expected over the previous six months.
Had Exeter City Council not postponed the full council meeting it had scheduled for 20 April, Councillor Lamb might have logged in and kept his position for the final weeks of his term.
ISN’T THE LUXURY ACCOMMODATION ENOUGH?
We noticed a Freedom of Information request submitted via WhatDoTheyKnow asking the university how much it spends on advertising and marketing. The university’s response did not supply most of the requested information, but it did reveal that it spent £966,585 on marketing in 2019-20.
ON THE AGENDA
EXMOUTH JUNCTION PLANNING DECISION DUE
As we go to press Exeter City Council’s planning committee is deciding an application to build a three to five storey block of 51 residential units on a small section of the Exmouth Junction site at the Morrisons supermarket end of Prince Charles Road. Planning officer’s report here, full application details here.
NEWTOWN CONSULTATION ENDS TOMORROW!
Newtown residents are invited to tell Exeter City Council and Devon County Council how they would like to see their neighbourhood improved. The consultation emphasis is on increasing “active travel” although it offers scope to comment on a range of issues including public spaces, parking, play and recreation and the wider community. Have your say here. The survey will inform proposals which will come forward during the summer.
NORTHBROOK APPROACH CONSULTATION ENDS NEXT WEEK
After backtracking on its plans to redevelop the golf course (which closed in 2019) into housing, the city council now wants community views on the site’s future. The council’s draft Parks and Green Spaces strategy mentions “sponsorship and commercial opportunities” as “alternatives to traditional revenue funding”. Have your say here, but only until 3 May.
NEW EXETER LOCAL PLAN ON ITS WAY
The governance, resourcing and timetable arrangements for the East Devon, Exeter. Mid Devon and Teignbridge Joint Plan (aka GESP Redux) are also due on 6 July, for a final decision on 20 July by full council.
LIVEABLE EXETER UPDATE
ON OUR READING LIST
CLIMATE POLICY TRACKER APRIL UPDATE
Green Alliance’s essential UK climate action policy tracker shows the country risks complacency just as the heavy lifting is needed across the economy to create green jobs and reach its decarbonisation targets. PDF here.
Top line: “Based on current government policy, emissions will be nearly 40 per cent higher than needed to hit the 2030 climate target”.
THE CONCEPT OF NET ZERO IS A DANGEROUS TRAP
University of Exeter climate scientist James Dyke and colleagues with an essential corrective for all those who still mistakenly believe that #NetZeroExeter groupthink/rhetoric/solutionism will get us where we need to be.
The wrap: “Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.”
REFORMING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
SO MANY QUESTIONS …
Quote of the week must surely go to Exeter City Council leader Phil Bialyk for: “Sorry, chair, I just need to refer to some of my other notes, if you’ll just bear with me”.
It followed two long minutes at Exeter City Council’s Tuesday evening meeting in which Councillor Bialyk read out a scripted statement on the council’s willingness to use green space beside the river for development in answer to a completely different question.
It was only when he turned the page that he noticed his mistake (but still seemed to miss the amusement among his colleagues).
The question? From Exeter Observer contributing editor Peter Cleasby: “Since the council has failed to respond to repeated questioning from Exeter Observer on the topic, will the leader of the council please explain why the Church of England has two representatives on the Liveable Exeter Place Board while other faiths and churches have none?”
Unfortunately, when Councillor Bialyk did find the correct script he still failed to provide an answer.