THE EXETER DIGEST

Exeter Digest #10: Exeter City Futures secondments - Overseas property ownership - Net Zero Exeter plan found wanting

Our tenth newsletter also covers urban sprawl on Exeter's periphery, boundary commission hearings, Devon devolution dealings and the Levelling Up white paper.

Welcome to The Exeter Digest, Exeter Observer’s essential free email newsletter, with apologies for the delay since our last edition (caused by a bereavement).

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

DECISION TO SEND COUNCIL CEO AND DIRECTOR TO WORK FOR EXETER CITY FUTURES IS “DISSERVICE TO CITIZENS”

The city council has disregarded governance, risk and conflict of interest issues despite multiple cross-party challenges and conflated the decarbonisation agenda with a property development financing scheme.

Read the full story or comment and share.

INDIVIDUAL OVERSEAS OWNERSHIP OF EXETER PROPERTY TRIPLES IN TEN YEARS

The rise of more than 350% is greater than in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, increasing Exeter housing costs, reducing home ownership levels and harming housing affordability.

Read the full story or comment and share.

EXETER DECARBONISATION PLANS FOUND WANTING IN NATIONWIDE COUNCIL CLIMATE ACTION PLAN STUDY

Somerset West and Taunton was the highest scoring local authority area with East Devon in third place nationally in a comprehensive Climate Emergency UK analysis.

Read the full story or comment and share.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

PENNSYLVANIA PETITIONERS EXPOSE FIFTEEN YEARS OF FLAWED STUDENT ACCOMMODATION POLICY-MAKING

A special report which examines the growth of university student numbers and its impact on residential housing in the city alongside Exeter City Council’s flawed attempts to use planning policy to mitigate that impact.

COUNTY COUNCIL DOUBLES DOWN ON PENSION FUND DIVESTMENT POSITION

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite an increasingly untenable county council position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and a failure to understand the sector’s position and plans.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER RANKED BOTTOM OF RUSSELL GROUP AND 103RD OVERALL IN SOCIAL MOBILITY LEAGUE TABLE

A landmark study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, The Sutton Trust and the Department for Education has found that University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

NOTES & SKETCHES

NOT SUCH AN HONOURABLE MENTION for Cranbrook in a recent Transport for New Homes report examining new housing developments across England to find out whether they are built around sustainable transport or car dependency.

It found that the walkability that was supposed to be at the core of Cranbrook’s claimed sustainability has not come to fruition and residents have no option other than to use a car to access many amenities.

Despite Devon County Council, the local transport authority and bus services commissioner, driving the development forward, researchers found a road that was too narrow for buses to reach a new bus stop. They also found that the much-vaunted railway station, which is more than 550 metres from the nearest housing, is not connected to the main development by bus.

Transport for New Homes classifies Cranbrook as a “cowpat” development: new housing dropped on fields, built separately from the existing urban area to which it is not connected by continuous streets.

HAS THE COUNTY COUNCIL LEARNED ITS LESSON? Judging by the “ample space” for greenfield business park and housing development promoted in the “Clean Growth Vision for the West of East Devon” it commissioned from City Science Corporation (an Exeter City Futures sister company) for submission to the East Devon Local Plan consultation, it seems not.

Worryingly, Devon County Council says the document “provides the next level of detail beneath the Devon Carbon Plan” and expects it to “inspire other areas to create similar plans”. Get your complimentary Kool-Aid here then consider what this sort of thinking would mean for the new Exeter Local Plan.

IN OTHER URBAN SPRAWL NEWS a development of up to 80 residential dwellings on a ten acre greenfield site alongside Exwick Lane has been given the go ahead at appeal. The city council refused the development in May last year on the grounds it would have a harmful visual impact on the Redhills ridgeline.

The planning inspector rejected the council’s decision, concluding that the development would comply with the council’s planning policies. He said his judgement was not affected by the argument that it might provide a precedent for ridgeline development in other parts of Exeter.

This did not deter the council leader, Phil Bialyk, from insisting that “Exeter protects the vital green ridge surrounding the city” in his budget speech on Tuesday.

ON THE AGENDA

PART II OF THE BOUNDARY COMMISSION CONSULTATION began on Tuesday. Feedback on the proposed new parliamentary constituencies can be submitted until 4 April 2022 via the commission website, where the existing Exeter and East Devon constituency boundaries and the proposed changes are mapped alongside comments on the proposals.

See Exeter Digest #5 for a summary of the Priory vs Pinhoe argument which led to the city council proposing to sacrifice the latter to an East Devon Conservative MP.

Public hearings covering the whole South West region are planned in Exeter from 10am to 8pm on 21 March and 9am to 5pm on 22 March. They will take place at the Guildhall. Recordings and transcripts of the hearings will be made available afterwards.

DEVOLUTION FOR DEVON? The prospect of county-level devolution has been entangled with the government’s “Levelling Up” agenda ever since the latter appeared in the Conservative Party’s 2019 general election manifesto.

Multiple announcements, swirling rumours and contentious early moves to replace two-tier arrangements with unitary authorities in rural counties, particularly Somerset, have created considerable confusion around the policy.

In Devon, overlapping bids were separately submitted by Plymouth City Council in partnership with West Devon and South Hams (see also their Joint Local Plan) and Devon County Council, which intends to take Plymouth & Co. under its wing. The Plymouth-led bid apparently surprised County Hall.

Whether either bid would need to include a directly-elected Mayor has been unclear. Meanwhile leaked documents suggested the abolition of district councils (including Exeter City Council) might be on the cards too.

The delayed “Levelling Up” white paper, published earlier this month, finally laid out the government’s (provisional) criteria for county deals. County council leader John Hart last week confirmed Devon would be pursuing a “level two” bid focussed on transport, skills and housing without requiring a county-wide Mayor. Negotiations with central government continue.

ON OUR READING LIST

THE “LEVELLING UP” WHITE PAPER itself is not so much a challenge to read, at 332 pages plus regional breakdown plus technical annex, but it does pose a dilemma for potential readers: is it worth the attention?

Given the criticism it has received it remains to be seen how much influence it will have on the ground, especially in the South West, which is far from the “red wall” on which the document’s political logic turns. Exeter appears just twice: the maths school and the “Exeter M5 Growth Corridor” each get a one-line mention.

On the same day the white paper was published, the National Audit Office released a report panning the DLUHC’s performance around local growth policies and funding. It found the “evidence base for effective interventions is limited. The [DLUHC] therefore lacks evidence on whether the billions of pounds of public funding it has awarded to local bodies in the past for supporting local growth have had the impact intended. And it has wasted opportunities to learn which initiatives and interventions are most effective.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also queried whether the government understands how to deliver the big picture targets which headline the white paper (and whether it even intends to try). Director Paul Johnson said they look “extremely ambitious - that is to say highly unlikely to be met, even with the best policies and much resource. There is little detail on how most of them will be met, and less detail on available funding. There is something for everyone, and hence little sense of prioritisation: ambition and resource will be spread very thin.”

Bristol North West MP Darren Jones, who chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, compared the white paper’s headline “missions” with the now-defunct UK Industrial Strategy, and concluded the former had largely been cribbed from the latter. Other parts of the document were apparently copied from Wikipedia. Your mileage may vary.

RATHER MORE RELEVANT TO EXETER is auditor Grant Thornton’s Report in the Public Interest on Croydon Council’s failed Brick by Brick development company. It identifies “serious corporate and governance failings” and “significant concerns regarding the decision making, value for money, behaviour and governance arrangements”, concluding that the council “failed to ensure it was acting lawfully”.

It also said “the lack of properly executed written legal arrangements covering the provision of funding to Brick by Brick is in our view a very serious matter and demonstrates fundamental failings by the council.” The report has been handed to the police who are considering a criminal investigation.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST everyone involved in UK public life should be paying attention to Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer, the company’s 22nd annual trust and credibility survey.

It found that trust in government fell thirteen points, to just 29%, in the three months to the end of January this year alone, with only 15% now believing that the UK’s political system works in their favour. Only 31% think voting influences those in power, and a majority feel powerless to effect change.

Nearly 60% think that politicians are more likely to lie or mislead compared to a year ago, up seven points, and two thirds think that they are undermining democracy through their actions. City and county councillors are on the hook too: trust in local government has declined at the same rate as trust in Whitehall.

SUPPORT OUR INDEPENDENT PUBLIC INTEREST JOURNALISM

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

  1. Share this newsletter with your friends and family and encourage them to subscribe free.

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

  3. Join our team. We are always happy to hear from experienced writers or photographers.

  4. Make a donation. Every contribution, large or small, helps sustain our research and writing.

  5. Become a supporter. It is our supporters who give us the strength to hold wealth, power and the influence of individuals and institutions to account in the public sphere.



Recent headlines
Recent headlines
Stagecoach subsidiary operating companies 2022-23 pre-tax profits bar chart

Stagecoach South West posts largest losses in sector despite greatest growth in journey numbers

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter cover image

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter consultation skewed towards only one of five 'core tools'

Empty studios at The Gorge

The Gorge stands 70% empty nearly six months after opening as mounting council tax liability looms

Spruce Close & Celia Crescent development aerial view

City council approves plans for controversial greenfield site housing

Longbrook Street student accommodation block illustrative elevation

Top to bottom King Billy student block redesign waved through as minor variation to consented plans

St Bridget Nurseries illustrative layout

Judge quashes planning permission for 350 homes at St Bridget Nurseries in Old Rydon Lane

Recent stories
Stagecoach subsidiary operating companies 2022-23 pre-tax profits bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Stagecoach South West posts largest losses in sector despite greatest growth in journey numbers

Lowest year on year revenue rise compounded by above average staffing costs increase as £2 bus fare cap continues to prop up passenger demand.

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter cover image

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Liveable Exeter Placemaking Charter consultation skewed towards only one of five 'core tools'

Private developers' forum and other major components of new charter not mentioned in council communications, but transparency and new 'culture of openness' to 'help build trust in the planning system' emphasised throughout.

Empty studios at The Gorge

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

The Gorge stands 70% empty nearly six months after opening as mounting council tax liability looms

Council development director claims developer interest demonstrates need for co-living in Exeter but works have yet to start on all other such schemes.

Spruce Close & Celia Crescent development aerial view

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

City council approves plans for controversial greenfield site housing

Key details remain unresolved including future ownership and management of green space and public access restrictions during construction period.

Longbrook Street student accommodation block illustrative elevation

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Top to bottom King Billy student block redesign waved through as minor variation to consented plans

Council throws out Design Review Panel interventions and reneges on commitment to planning committee while developers claim unauthorised destruction of protected medieval wall justified on safety grounds.

St Bridget Nurseries illustrative layout

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Judge quashes planning permission for 350 homes at St Bridget Nurseries in Old Rydon Lane

High Court judgement finds city council did not properly discharge duties or take material considerations into account, council officer seriously misled planning committee and county council failed in statutory local highway authority role.

On Our Radar
More stories
Illustrative elevation facing St Luke's campus

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Heavitree Road police station & magistrates court redevelopment appeal dismissed

Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner and offshore development partner sent back to drawing board after attempt to overturn city council decision to refuse two huge student/co-living blocks fails.

Exeter City Council allotment fees increases 2016 to 2024 line graph

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Council plans huge allotment fees increases to claw back cash from 1,500 city gardeners and growers

Plot holders provided with incomplete picture as consultation held which does not comply with council's own charter and delayed scrutiny report that omits key survey findings suggests council aims to turn profit from allotment provision.

, updated

Devon electric vehicle charging strategy cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Devon County Council adopts charging strategy that provides for only 20% of EVs it expects by 2030

Local ULEV ownership has risen rapidly in recent years but many more vehicles have joined county's roads as local transport area ULEV growth lags behind rest of country and Exeter motor vehicle numbers alone top 87,000.

Land Trust garden community development of 3,000 homes at Beaulieu, near Chelmsford

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Liveable Exeter 'garden city' branding is about government funding, not green space

New Exeter Local Plan policy 'principles' have little in common with historic vision revitalised for 21st century by TCPA for government programme, while consented Haven Banks scheme and proposed new town near Exeter Airport have even less.

Scrutiny Programme Board agenda extract 21 July 2022

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

City council scrutiny board enabling illicit obstruction of democracy

Essential safeguard against misuse of power misdirected by Executive members and senior officers while backbench councillors persistently denied rights to examine high-risk schemes and citywide climate crisis response.

3D view of revised development proposal

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Student landlord submits new plans for Union Road HMO back garden block following appeal failure

Application for six bedroom, single storey purpose built student accommodation block made on site of refused ten bedroom, two storey scheme in garden of thirteen bedroom shared student house.

Spotlight
St Bridget Nurseries illustrative layout

Judge quashes planning permission for 350 homes at St Bridget Nurseries in Old Rydon Lane

High Court judgement finds city council did not properly discharge duties or take material considerations into account, council officer seriously misled planning committee and county council failed in statutory local highway authority role.

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   COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY   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 & CORNWALL POLICE DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE DEVON & CORNWALL POLICE   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 CHIEFS EXETER CHIEFS EXETER CHIEFS   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 CLIMATE ACTION HUB EXETER CLIMATE ACTION HUB EXETER CLIMATE ACTION HUB   EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE EXETER COLLEGE   EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE EXETER CULTURE   EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND EXETER DEVELOPMENT FUND   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 CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE EXETER CITY CENTRE   EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER EXTINCTION REBELLION EXETER   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+   LIBRARIES UNLIMITED LIBRARIES UNLIMITED LIBRARIES UNLIMITED   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 PARKS PUBLIC PARKS PUBLIC PARKS   PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM PUBLIC REALM   PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT PUBLIC TRANSPORT   RAMM RAMM RAMM   REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING REFUSE & RECYCLING   RETROFIT RETROFIT RETROFIT   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 JAMES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN ST JAMES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN ST JAMES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN   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   TRANSPORT POLICY TRANSPORT POLICY TRANSPORT POLICY   UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER UNIVERSITY OF EXETER   WATER LANE WATER LANE WATER LANE  

More stories