The exeter digest

Exeter Digest #2: Exeter local elections guide - Majority want net zero by 2030 - Council meetings to resume in person

With the local elections a week today and a bank holiday weekend on its way we thought we'd publish our second edition a day early to give you extra time to take your pick of our top stories.

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.

TOP STORIES

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.

Exeter Observer has joined the global Covering Climate Now journalism partnership, allowing us to republish stories shared by a network of publishers including The Guardian, Reuters and Bloomberg.

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

A Local Development Scheme report (essentially a timetable for the new local plan) is due on 1 June, then a Local Plan initial consultation document is due for approval a month later, on 6 July.

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

An update on the Liveable Exeter programme is also due to be presented at the Executive meeting on 1 June. The city council’s full meetings calendar is here.

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

mySociety’s latest research report proposing improvements to strengthen access to information in the UK. PDF here.

LAST WORD

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.


Recent stories
Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

St Thomas Community Garden volunteers

First St Thomas winter market brings festival feel to "overlooked" area of Exeter

Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins "co-living" block, sealing fate of Paul Street


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News
Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Landmark study by Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sutton Trust and Department for Education finds University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Annual event promoting public awareness of male violence against women and girls in public spaces coincides with international human rights campaigns.

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

Three year monitoring study confirms introduction of protected spaces has resulted in greater numbers of wildfowl using internationally important Dawlish Warren and Exmouth sites.

All News
Analysis
Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite increasingly untenable pension fund committee position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and failure to understand sector position and plans.

Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins "co-living" block, sealing fate of Paul Street

Previously rejected vision will now form basis of "abysmal" and "poorly thought through" Liveable Exeter development of 383 "units of accommodation" with increased proportion of substandard studios but reduced economic value to city.

Exeter City Council climate credentials claim in St Sidwells Point development hoarding

Greens call for evidence-based Exeter carbon budget as city council clings to net zero rhetoric

The Net Zero Exeter plan lacks baseline emissions figures, recognised scope definitions and measurement and reporting frameworks, placing the city's decarbonisation agenda at risk. The opportunity for Exeter to demonstrate genuine climate crisis leadership nevertheless remains.

All Analysis
Comment
Cargo bike carrying kids in Exeter

If you think electric vehicles are the answer, you're asking the wrong question

Mike Walton of Exeter Cycling Campaign says we shouldn't be seduced by the motoring lobby into believing that electric cars can create the future we and our children need.

Net Zero Exeter logo

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing "technical and financial challenges ahead", although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

All Comment
Transport & Mobility
Cargo bike carrying kids in Exeter

If you think electric vehicles are the answer, you're asking the wrong question

Mike Walton of Exeter Cycling Campaign says we shouldn't be seduced by the motoring lobby into believing that electric cars can create the future we and our children need.

RMT campaign sticker on Exeter bus shelter

Stagecoach strike to take place following failed pay negotiations

Transport union RMT says Stagecoach pay offer is unsatisfactory and demands better conditions as staff shortages threaten services.

Peninsula Transport vision document cover image

30 year plan for SW transport outlined in consultation document

Strategic vision places investment in roads ahead of decarbonisation despite acknowledging the region's high car dependency rate.

All Transport & Mobility
Planning & Place
Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins "co-living" block, sealing fate of Paul Street

Previously rejected vision will now form basis of "abysmal" and "poorly thought through" Liveable Exeter development of 383 "units of accommodation" with increased proportion of substandard studios but reduced economic value to city.

Independent local business on Paris Street, Exeter

Prospects improve for pop-up Paris Street and Sidwell Street tenants wanting to stay on development site

Council leader Phil Bialyk says it will be "some years" before planned CityPoint redevelopment affects repurposed retail units, and that council "would want" to accommodate artistic and cultural initiatives and independent local businesses "should they wish to remain".

Clifton Hill sports centre

Council plans to scrap affordable housing requirement for Clifton Hill sports centre site redevelopment

Council-owned and financed developer cites unpublished report which values council-owned land for student housing despite council decision ruling out this use.

All Planning & Place
Arts & Culture
Positive Light Projects - Sidwell Street entrance

Positive Light Projects opens community arts centre despite CityPoint redevelopment threat

Parts of Exeter city centre are experiencing an unplanned renaissance as small shops and cultural venues move in to fill empty units on Paris Street and Sidwell Street, but uncertainty remains as the council still plans to demolish and redevelop.

Exeter Princesshay Debenhams closing down sale

Top floor of former Debenhams store to be converted into cinema

Princesshay owner's proposals for change of use to four screen cinema and cafe/bar have been under discussion since November 2019.

Preston Street Union present SERGE/SURGE at Cricklepit Mill

Preston Street Union rolls out the red carpet

The Exeter-based artists explore migration driven by the city's historic wool trade in new work commissioned by RAMM.

All Arts & Culture
Climate & Environment
Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite increasingly untenable pension fund committee position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and failure to understand sector position and plans.

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

Three year monitoring study confirms introduction of protected spaces has resulted in greater numbers of wildfowl using internationally important Dawlish Warren and Exmouth sites.

Exeter Extinction Rebellion activists fly flag outside COP26 Exeter event at Maketank with COP26 Exeter photography project in window

COP-EXE event showcases local responses to global climate crisis

Exeter city centre venues last week hosted exhibitions promoting local action to mitigate the climate crisis in tandem with the COP26 conference in Glasgow.

All Climate & Environment
Democracy & Governance
Liveable Exeter Place Board agenda October 2020 redacted

City council outsourcing Exeter local government to unaccountable Liveable Exeter Place Board

An Exeter Observer investigation of Liveable Exeter Place Board has found that it is a de facto decision-making and governance body which exercises public functions with the potential to affect everyone who lives and works in Exeter.

Exeter city centre from Exeter Cathedral roof

Freedom of Information requests reveal Liveable Exeter Place Board "chumocracy" overseeing the city

Despite the significance of Liveable Exeter Place Board's role in determining the city's future, its members are selected and appointed on a secretive, informal basis.

Exeter City Council 2021 election results ballot share percentage by ward

Did Exeter's local elections results tell a Labour success story?

Exeter Labour lost just one seat in the city council elections and held all seven of its county hall seats, but on closer inspection its performance was more mixed than these headline results imply.

All Democracy & Governance
Community & Society
Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Landmark study by Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sutton Trust and Department for Education finds University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Annual event promoting public awareness of male violence against women and girls in public spaces coincides with international human rights campaigns.

St Thomas Community Garden volunteers

First St Thomas winter market brings festival feel to "overlooked" area of Exeter

A community-run event at St Thomas' Church combined artisan traders with music, storytelling and craft workshops to create a family-friendly festival atmosphere.

All Community & Society
Economy & Enterprise
Job Centre Plus entrance

Exeter workers to be among hardest hit by £20 cut in universal credit

Analysis shows proportion of benefit claimants in Exeter in work is among highest in country.

Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Illustration showing how the new building will look when completed

Exeter Science Park STEMM "grow-out building" construction begins

A new specialist centre for fast-growth Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths & Medicine businesses will be completed by November 2021.

All Economy & Enterprise