THE EXETER DIGEST

Exeter Digest #6: Liveable Exeter Place Board double bill - Scrutiny under scrutiny - Catastrophic climate change or cake?

In the sixth edition of our newsletter we review key stories from the past few weeks, get some perspective on our predicament and find some unlikely claims on a local Labour leaflet.

Public consultation  Exeter city council  Exeter local plan  Exeter transport strategy  Net zero exeter 

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LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD DOUBLE BILL

Both top stories in this edition of The Exeter Digest follow an Exeter Observer investigation of Liveable Exeter Place Board, the unelected and unaccountable body that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and is taking responsibility for major policies which will determine Exeter’s future.

“CHUMOCRACY” OVERSEES THE CITY

The first focusses on the secretive, informal way in which board members are selected and appointed. Freedom of information requests have revealed a “chumocracy” redolent of the current Conservative government’s approach to appointments and procurement despite Exeter City Council’s claim to be “committed to openness and transparency”.

Read more on our website or join the conversation on Twitter.

OUTSOURCED EXETER LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The second examines the board’s role, reach and potential impact. We have gathered evidence which shows that, notwithstanding Exeter City Council’s claims to the contrary, the board 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.

Read the full story or join the conversation on Twitter.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

HARLEQUINS DEVELOPER PLANS SECOND “CO-LIVING” BLOCK INSTEAD OF HOTEL

Exeter City Council approved plans to redevelop Harlequins shopping centre last year despite vehement opposition from residents, campaigners and conservation charities.

Since receiving formal consent for the scheme the developer has submitted a revised application to return to an earlier, rejected, vision for the site which will replace the planned hotel with a second “co-living” block.

A revised economic impact assessment now discounts the scheme’s claimed benefits and observers remain convinced the co-living blocks are student accommodation in all but name.

COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE DESPITE CITYPOINT REDEVELOPMENT THREAT

Parts of Exeter city centre are experiencing an unplanned renaissance as small shops and cultural venues fill empty units on Paris Street and Sidwell Street, but the council still intends to demolish and redevelop the area, with outline plans framed around massive build to rent blocks, hotels, offices and a brand new civic centre for itself.

Positive Light Projects has nevertheless transformed a disused building on Sidwell Street into artist studios, gallery space, a photography studio, offices and meeting space for local groups.

NOTES & SKETCHES

SOUND FAMILIAR?

A Centre for Governance and Scrutiny report into Nottingham City Council’s “superficial and inadequate” scrutiny mechanisms has been published following a public interest report by auditor Grant Thornton which accused the council of “institutional blindness” over poor financial decision-making which led to it borrowing £35 million from the government to avoid collapse.

The CfGS report (item five) places some of the blame on a political culture where any public challenge is seen as “disloyalty”.

IT’S GRIM DOWN SOUTH WEST …

Recent synthesis of economic data by Devon County Council makes for gloomy reading. Before the pandemic began 39% of children across the county were part of working families claiming tax credits (3% higher than the national average) with even more in some areas (43% in North Devon and 44% in Torridge), while average pay for the lowest 20% of earners fell between 2019 and 2020, a period during which it rose nationally.

Exeter fared worst among Devon districts, with a 14% fall, at the same time as house prices rose by 18% and rents increased by more than twice as much as in the rest of the country.

As the pandemic has eased, the county has continued to struggle, with high housing costs, low wages and the “staycation” boom prompting landlords to cash in on short term lets among factors causing significant local labour shortages. Meanwhile high street vacancy rates remain above the national average in many areas, including Exeter city centre.

… BUT WE’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER

Last Friday the UN released a report assessing the combined climate action plans of all 191 parties to the Paris Agreement which found that they point towards a catastrophic 2.7°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

Not only that. Instead of a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 levels by 2030, necessary to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C according to the IPCC sixth assessment report published last month, current Paris Agreement signatory plans put us on course for a 16% increase by that date.

Meanwhile, back in post-Brexit blighty, an analysis of how UK broadcasters are exposing audiences to climate change found that the word “cake” was used ten times more often than the phrase “climate change” on UK TV in 2020.

NO JOKE

Our thanks to a reader of Exeter Digest #5, who pointed out that use of the toilets included in Exeter’s new, apparently “state of the art” bus station, is not free of charge. He told us he found that users have to spend more than a penny whichever way they pay.

ON THE AGENDA

NEW EXETER LOCAL PLAN

Exeter City Council began the process of lining up its spatial development aspiration ducks this week by opening the first of several consultations on the new Exeter Local Plan. We are asked to consider and comment on an Issues consultation document ( here with officer report here) and a new Statement of Community Involvement (document here and officer report here).

The first outlines the key issues the new local plan is intended to address, and is presented alongside the “Exeter 2040 Vision” and “Liveable Exeter” property development scheme. The second outlines the ways in which the public, organisations and “other interested parties” are involved in city planning processes.

Both will be amended following the consultation and brought back for approval by council members before being used as a basis on which a formal draft Exeter Local Plan will be produced next year.

The current consultation runs until 15 November, and includes two public exhibitions: Thursday 30 September at Exeter Central Library and Wednesday 13 October at the Guildhall, both 1-7pm. Hard copies of the consultation documents can also be viewed during opening hours at the Civic Centre on Paris Street and at Exeter Central Library.

The new Local Development Scheme, which sets out the local plan preparation timetable is here.

HEAVITREE & WHIPTON LOW TRAFFIC NEIGHBOURHOOD

The second phase of public consultation on Devon County Council’s plans to reduce traffic volumes in Heavitree and Whipton (although not, of course, on the arterial routes which run through them). The first phase, which informed the options on offer in phase two, took place at the end of last year: a response summary is available here.

The current survey can be completed online until 7 October. “Measures which receive the most public support are expected to form part of a trial later this year.”

QUEEN STREET & IRON BRIDGE ROAD LAYOUT CHANGES

Another county highways consultation, this one on making permanent the temporary traffic restriction changes on Queen Street and Iron Bridge that were introduced earlier this year. Respondents are asked to comment on three options as well as make additional suggestions.

The online survey closes on 13 October. “If a permanent change were supported, Traffic Regulation Orders would then need to be advertised and consulted on, with a final decision on progressing any permanent change to be made by elected councillors at a future committee meeting.”

LABOUR UNLIMITED

Thanks also to another reader, who sent us a local Labour party leaflet which was delivered through their door complete with some rather surprising claims. One in particular stood out. Under the heading: “Across Exeter your Labour councillors have achieved” it said: “Reaching net zero carbon by 2030”.

Unless a casual slice of grammar butchery, or an act of radical historical revisionism, it must surely mark a new peak in heroic Exeter Labour confidence, presenting the city’s future as a fait accompli. Perhaps the planned “innovation district” has got off to a flying start by producing a Team Labour time machine?

ON OUR READING LIST

CCN GOES COP26

A report published last week by the County Council Network (which represents county and unitary authorities in England) unsurprisingly concluded that the government has been too city-focused in its climate action to date and must provide more funding and support to reduce emissions in county areas.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

The Social Market Foundation published related research two days before, ranking the impact of the prospective net zero transition across local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales in the form of an opportunity/risk index.

As assessment criteria included proximity to the nearest decarbonising industrial cluster Exeter came in at a less than world-class 168th position (out of 363 local authorities surveyed).

The Midlands, North West, Wales and the North East all ranked highly, reflecting the opportunities when both problems and potential problem solvers are in the same place. PDF here.

TIME TO STEP UP

A two year collaboration between the Resolution Foundation and the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance got under way back in May with its launch report: The UK’s decisive decade.

The project aims to frame the economic challenges faced by the UK during the 2020s and come up with policy recommendations to help address the combined impact of COVID-19, Brexit, decarbonisation, an ageing population and rapid technological change against a backdrop of persistently low productivity and high inequality.

Funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the project is being overseen by high profile commissioners including Adam Tooze, Dani Rodrik and Nicholas Stern. A “national conversation” is promised, driven by a stream of publications and public events. Launch report PDF here.

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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

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY   AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY AIR QUALITY   COP26 COP26 COP26   COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19   CITYPOINT CITYPOINT CITYPOINT   CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE CLIFTON HILL SPORTS CENTRE   CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS CLIMATE CRISIS   CO-LIVING CO-LIVING CO-LIVING   CONGESTION CONGESTION CONGESTION   COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX COUNCIL TAX   CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE CROWN ESTATE   CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING CYCLING & WALKING   DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT   DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN DEVON CARBON PLAN   DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL   DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND DEVON PENSION FUND   EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT EXETER AIRPORT   EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL EXETER CATHEDRAL   EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL EXETER CITY COUNCIL   EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES EXETER CITY FUTURES   EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING EXETER CITY LIVING   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION   EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER EXETER LIVE BETTER   EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN EXETER LOCAL PLAN   EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX EXETER PHOENIX   EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE EXETER PRIDE   EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK EXETER SCIENCE PARK   EXETER ST DAVID'S EXETER ST DAVID'S EXETER ST DAVID'S   EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY EXETER TRANSPORT STRATEGY   EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE EXETER   GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS GENERAL ELECTIONS   GUILDHALL GUILDHALL GUILDHALL   HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS HARLEQUINS   HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP HEART OF THE SOUTH WEST LEP   HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS HOUSING CRISIS   LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+ LGBTQIA+   LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD LIVEABLE EXETER PLACE BOARD   LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER LIVEABLE EXETER   LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY LOCAL INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY   LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS LOCAL ELECTIONS   MAKETANK MAKETANK MAKETANK   MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON MARSH BARTON   MET OFFICE MET OFFICE MET OFFICE   MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MID DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL   NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER NET ZERO EXETER   NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS NORTHERNHAY GARDENS   OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE OXYGEN HOUSE   PARIS STREET PARIS STREET PARIS STREET   PARKING PARKING PARKING   PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT PENINSULA TRANSPORT   PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY PLANNING POLICY   PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY PRINCESSHAY   PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT   PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION PUBLIC CONSULTATION   PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH PUBLIC HEALTH   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK RIVERSIDE VALLEY PARK   ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST   SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET SIDWELL STREET   SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION SOUTH WEST EXETER EXTENSION   SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER SOUTH WEST WATER   SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY SOUTHERNHAY   SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT SPORT ENGLAND LOCAL DELIVERY PILOT   ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE   ST SIDWELL'S POINT ST SIDWELL'S POINT ST SIDWELL'S POINT   STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST STAGECOACH SOUTH WEST   STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL TEIGNBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER  

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