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).

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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 long read 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 Council 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.

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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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