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.

Freedom of information  University of exeter  Public consultation  Devon county council  Exeter city council  Exeter local plan  Liveable exeter  Climate crisis  Net zero exeter 

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.


Exeter in brief
Exeter in brief

The police inspectorate says DEVON AND CORNWALL POLICE must make urgent improvements after it was found to be inadequate in three of nine areas including responding to emergency and non-emergency calls and managing registered sexual and violent offenders.
Its assessment found two other areas required improvement while two more were graded “good”. A new chief constable was appointed in December after the force was placed under enhanced inspectorate monitoring last year.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is consulting on its draft Exeter Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which is already nearly six years late, until the end of March.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER staff have resumed strike action over pay, pensions and working conditions alongside Exeter school teaching staff with dozens more strike days planned during February and March.

EXETER CITY FUTURES published the agenda for its last board meeting on 30 January, two months after the meeting was held. It says it is “committed to being completely transparent and open about the things that are discussed at board meetings”. No minutes were included.

New figures show that 2.2 million people used EXETER CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION in the year to March 2022, making it the 155th busiest of 2,569 UK railway stations and (slightly) busier than Exeter St David’s.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is not making sufficient progress with its children’s services since they were judged inadequate in January 2020 according to the latest Ofsted monitoring report which found that key areas still require significant change and serious issues remain.

The opening of MARSH BARTON RAILWAY STATION has been delayed yet again, to “this spring”, putting project completion more than six years behind schedule.

EXETER CHIEFS rugby club has reintroduced its offensive “tomahawk chop” chant during games at Sandy Park despite seeking to rehabilitate its reputation over misappropriation of Native American imagery.

The UNIVERSITY OF EXETER has submitted detailed plans for its 1,700 bed West Park redevelopment of 50,000m2 of student accommodation.

The police inspectorate says DEVON AND CORNWALL POLICE must make urgent improvements after it was found to be inadequate in three of nine areas including responding to emergency and non-emergency calls and managing registered sexual and violent offenders.
Its assessment found two other areas required improvement while two more were graded “good”. A new chief constable was appointed in December after the force was placed under enhanced inspectorate monitoring last year.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is consulting on its draft Exeter Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which is already nearly six years late, until the end of March.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER staff have resumed strike action over pay, pensions and working conditions alongside Exeter school teaching staff with dozens more strike days planned during February and March.

EXETER CITY FUTURES published the agenda for its last board meeting on 30 January, two months after the meeting was held. It says it is “committed to being completely transparent and open about the things that are discussed at board meetings”. No minutes were included.

New figures show that 2.2 million people used EXETER CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION in the year to March 2022, making it the 155th busiest of 2,569 UK railway stations and (slightly) busier than Exeter St David’s.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is not making sufficient progress with its children’s services since they were judged inadequate in January 2020 according to the latest Ofsted monitoring report which found that key areas still require significant change and serious issues remain.

The opening of MARSH BARTON RAILWAY STATION has been delayed yet again, to “this spring”, putting project completion more than six years behind schedule.

EXETER CHIEFS rugby club has reintroduced its offensive “tomahawk chop” chant during games at Sandy Park despite seeking to rehabilitate its reputation over misappropriation of Native American imagery.

The UNIVERSITY OF EXETER has submitted detailed plans for its 1,700 bed West Park redevelopment of 50,000m2 of student accommodation.

More Exeter Digest

Exeter Digest #22: Community infrastructure levy review - Student numbers - County council spending

The first edition of 2023 also introduces our new Exeter in brief section and trails PRISM Exeter LGBTQIA+ speakers, a free documentary film screening and Exeter's first seed swap.

Exeter Digest #21: Greener grass? - Council lottery - EDF secrecy - £2.2 million ECL loss

A bumper festive holiday edition also covers the nurses strike, South West Water's "sustained poor performance" and the university's gender pay gap plus a Community Infrastructure Levy consultation.

Exeter Digest #20: ICO investigates university - Stagecoach escapes - University strike - Roads dominate Devon transport spending

Our essential newsletter also covers three ongoing public consultations plus an original play by Exeter Drama Company, traditional festive music by candlelight and poetry, comedy and live carols for Christmas.

All Exeter Digest
News
Exeter empty and second homes by council tax band October 2022 bar chart

PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter has more empty and second homes than built in city in past two years

Council tax premium proposals that aim to raise additional revenue from underused housing stock might also encourage return to residential occupancy.

University of Exeter students based at Streatham & St Luke's campuses 2021-22 & 2022-23 table

PLANNING & PLACE

30,000 students based at Exeter university campuses in 2022-23

Freedom of information request reveals significant drop on last year with postgraduate students accounting for 58% of fall in numbers.

Devon County Council headquarters at County Hall

DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Underperforming county council children's services to receive nearly half of proposed spending increases

Details of simultaneous £50 million 2023-24 spending reductions not yet published as finance director cites service delivery "re-prioritisation".

All News
Analysis
Lottery graphic

COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Council lottery operator to take cut from local charitable donations

Decision to promote gambling as "incentivised giving" plays down risks without assessing potential impacts or evidencing claimed benefits, disrupting relationships between community and voluntary sector organisations and supporters.

Exeter Development Fund workshop presentation October 2021

DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Futures falsely claims development fund documents disclosed under FOI legislation

Senior council director puts company on collision course with Information Commissioner's Office as significant governance failings emerge after councillors and public kept in dark over Liveable Exeter financing scheme proposals.

Exeter City Council 2020-21 external audit report cover

DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Living put council at "significant financial risk" after £2.2 million loss in first two years

Missing business plan, lack of transparency and conflicts of interest among senior council directors prompt board resignations and governance review at council-owned and funded company.

All Analysis
Comment
Co-living - discover a new way to rent

PLANNING & PLACE

Council development levy changes are insufficiently evidenced and don't meet city infrastructure needs

Exeter City Council and Liveable Exeter partners impose faulty typology driven by policy objectives while ignoring new local plan, evidence base and statutory funding statement and excluding residential and retail charges from review.

Exeter city centre retail area map 2017 and 2022 CDRC data

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Is the grass really greener in Exeter city centre?

Academic research placing Exeter retail area at top of green space table was nationally reported, locally misrepresented then repurposed as booster fuel by local politicians overlooking study's social justice focus.

Exeter City Council outline draft local plan site allocations crop

PLANNING & PLACE

Will council seek investment zone status for Liveable Exeter sites?

Government growth plans combine tax breaks with planning deregulation, putting affordable housing provision and environmental protections at risk with little evidence that promised investment zone benefits would result.

All Comment
On our radar
All topics

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