THE EXETER DIGEST

Exeter Digest #7: CityPoint pop-ups reprieve - When is a PBSA not a PBSA? - Greta tells it like it is

In our seventh newsletter we review recent key stories, round up the news in brief and highlight think tank ideas for "community-powered conservatism" and how to deliver for real housing need.

Public consultation  Exeter local plan  Housing crisis 

Welcome to The Exeter Digest, Exeter Observer’s essential free email newsletter. Thanks for subscribing. Please feel free to reply to this email or get in touch with any comments or suggestions you may have.

TOP STORIES

CITYPOINT POP-UPS REPRIEVE

An unplanned renaissance in Exeter city centre is being driven by short-lease tenants in repurposed retail units vacated as a result of the failed Princesshay II scheme.

Revamped council plans for the area bounded by Paris Street, Sidwell Street, Cheeke Street and the old bus station nevertheless threaten the futures of artistic and cultural initiatives and independent local businesses that have spring up during a prolonged redevelopment hiatus.

Council leader Phil Bialyk now says the council’s first priority is to build a new “civic hub” on the Bampfylde Street car park, and that it will be “some years” before anything happens on the rest of the site, whose tenants the council “would want” to accommodate “should they wish to remain”.

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

WHEN IS A PBSA NOT A PBSA?

Apparently when it’s the basis of an Exeter City Council planning decision to scrap the affordable housing requirement for the Clifton Hill sports centre redevelopment.

Council-owned and financed developer Exeter City Living has cited an unpublished report which values the council-owned Clifton Hill site for student housing, despite a previous council decision ruling out this use, in seeking to overturn last year’s decision to require affordable housing there.

Having received a council loan of nearly £16 million to buy and develop the site on the basis it would make a 20% profit, Exeter City Living now claims that the development is no longer financially viable if the affordable housing requirement remains.

It nevertheless says that a government grant may be available to cover the cost of building the flats for social rent, a proviso which the council’s planning committee accepted at its Monday meeting despite its decision paving the way for other developers to dodge affordable housing provision.

Read the full story or join the conversation on Twitter.

GRETA TELLS IT LIKE IT IS

An interview with activist Greta Thunberg on the eve of the COP26 summit in which she calls on world leaders to be honest in confronting the climate crisis, published in partnership with Covering Climate Now.

Since then it seems HM QE II has chimed in in support of Greta’s “all talk, no action” criticism.

Read the interview here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

“CHUMOCRACY” OVERSEEING THE CITY

The first of two stories following 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.

Normal practice for appointments to a body with a remit as significant as that of Liveable Exeter Place Board would be to advertise widely and make transparent choices on the basis of objective assessment of candidates. No such process applies to Liveable Exeter Place Board appointments, nor has it ever.

Instead, board members are selected and appointed in secret, in a way that is 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”.

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.

NOTES & SKETCHES

EXETER CITY COUNCIL SCRAPS OWN “UNACHIEVABLE” CARBON EMISSIONS TARGET

In an extraordinary reversal, the city council removed the goal of achieving carbon neutral operations by 2022 from its corporate risk register at a recent Audit & Governance committee meeting.

The reason? Not only was the goal deemed “unachievable”, it seems the council hadn’t actually passed a resolution to achieve it in the first place.

So what was it doing on the risk register, where it’s been since November 2019? It seems the council has been confusing energy policy with decarbonisation.

Let’s hope the planned “net zero delivery team” won’t be prone to such schoolboy errors when it finally comes on stream in March next year.

By then it will have been more than three years since the council declared a climate emergency: let’s hope the team comes equipped with a dictionary, too.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH UNESCO

Torbay and Exeter’s joint UK city of culture bid, said to be inspired by the “closely connected coastal and city destinations” despite Brixham and Exeter being an hour and a half apart by public transport, didn’t make it onto the longlist of eight places which have caught the eye of culture vulture and escapee celebrity Nadine Dorries.

Bested by Armagh, Bradford and Wrexham, among others, Exeter City Council nevertheless sees “many positives .. on which exciting plans can be implemented” coming out of the bid.

LESS IS MORE

The University of Exeter published its long-awaited “Strategy 2030” at the beginning of the month. It’s a remarkable document, not least because of the Nobel-sized aspirations it expresses.

Apparently the university plans to “lead meaningful action against the climate emergency and ecological crisis” while making “key breakthroughs” which will “transform human health and well-being”. It also hopes to “lead the progress towards creating a fair, socially just and inclusive society”.

The scope and scale of its vision is commendable, but the document seems a little light on the detail of how it might achieve these Herculean tasks. Despite record high scores in the game of buzzword bingo, at just over 2,000 words it is only a little longer than this newsletter.

ON THE AGENDA

NEW EXETER LOCAL PLAN

The first among several consultations to come on the new Exeter Local Plan continues until 15 November.

Out for consideration and comment are 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 new Local Development Scheme, which sets out the local plan preparation timetable, is here.

ON OUR READING LIST

BEYOND THE BIG SOCIETY?

Michael Gove, recently reshuffled to a new post as communities secretary, has thrown his support behind a devolution model outlined in a pamphlet published by the New Local think tank in partnership with The New Social Covenant Unit.

“Trusting the People: the case for community-powered conservatism”, by ten Conservative MPs from the 2019 intake, makes a case for “community power as the future of the party”.

It claims to explore “how to level up the country” through what it calls a “double devolution to councils and communities” while calling for “businesses to act like citizens” via reform of the Companies Act and “an end to top-down funding decisions”.

The report champions the “Wigan Deal”, which saved the borough council £115 million over ten years by encouraging residents to “take more responsibility” for public services themselves.

While it’s not clear whether the Treasury will embrace the ideas contained in the report, the UK is among the most centralised mature democracies in the world, so there is plenty of interest here, not least because some of the pamphlet’s policies would look at home in the Labour manifesto.

PDF here.

HOUSING FOR PEOPLE

Meanwhile, as Exeter’s housing crisis reaches fever pitch, think tank Localis weighs in with some timely ideas on planning for community need rather than developer profit.

In the wake of the government’s controversial “Planning for the Future” white paper, it presents a case for a “stewarded model of land and housing delivery”.

It emphasises state funding for affordable, mixed-tenure and sustainable housebuilding, community value charters intended to provide a transparent picture of how procurement around development benefits local economies, and more community engagement in design codes, protection of community assets and planning policy- and decision-making.

The government is expected to announce its intentions for the delayed planning reform bill as part of the spending review which is due on 26 October.

PDF here

HELP POWER EXETER OBSERVER’S PUBLIC INTEREST JOURNALISM

There are lots of ways you can help Exeter Observer to thrive:

  1. Share this newsletter with your contacts and encourage them to subscribe.

  2. Follow @exeterobserver on Twitter, where you can like, retweet and comment on our stories.

  3. Join our expanding team of community journalists by signing up for one of our free training courses.

  4. Make a donation. Every contribution, large or small, sustains our research and writing about the issues that matter in and around Exeter.

  5. Become a supporter. Exeter Observer’s capacity to hold wealth, power and the influence of individuals and institutions to account depends on having sufficient resources to investigate their actions and challenge them in the public sphere. It is our supporters who give us that strength.


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  

More stories