A consultation on the outline draft version of the new Exeter local plan, which will guide development in the city until 2040, began on 26 September. It was due to run for ten weeks until 5 December, then was extended to 19 December.
The website also allowed the submission of PDF and image responses including maps, charts and plans.
A development site allocations summary – and a more useful version of the same list – was provided with a site allocations map as well as the documents which the council proposes as the new plan’s evidence base.
Responses to the outline draft plan were also invited at a series of events at which summary boards were displayed and council planning officers were available to answer questions. These ran from 3 October to 1 December.
|1-6pm||3 October||Newtown Community Centre||Belmont Park|
|1-7pm||6 October||Exeter Guildhall||High Street|
|1-7pm||11 October||Alphington Village Hall||Ide Lane|
|1-7pm||13 October||America Hall||De la Rue Way, Pinhoe|
|1-7pm||17 October||Wonford Methodist Church||Burnthouse Lane|
|1-7pm||20 October||Matthews Hall||Fore Street, Topsham|
|1-7pm||25 October||The Beacon Community Centre||Beacon Lane|
|1-7pm||1 November||St Lawrence Church Hall||Lower Hill Barton Road|
|12.30-6.30pm||3 November||St Thomas Church Hall||Cowick Street|
|1-6pm||8 November||The Custom House||The Quay|
|1-7pm||14 November||The Thatched House||Exwick Road|
|12-5.15pm||21 November||Park Life Community Hub||Heavitree Pleasure Ground|
|1-7pm||22 November||St Sidwell's Community Centre||Sidwell Street|
|1-7pm||1 December||St James' Church Hall||Mount Pleasant Road|
The new Exeter local plan will replace the city’s 2012 Core Strategy and the policies saved from the 1995-2011 Exeter Local Plan First Review when it is adopted.
It is intended to facilitate the Liveable Exeter property development scheme, and the Exeter Development Fund which is intended to deliver it, by providing a scheme-focussed “vision and framework for the future development of the city”.
Exeter’s SPDs will be reviewed in the context of emerging Exeter local plan policies as well as ongoing changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, but not directly as part of the new local plan development process.
Neighbourhood plans, produced by local groups, also form part of planning policy frameworks. Exeter’s includes one such plan which covers the St James area.
An existing evidence base also supports and informs local planning policy development.
The timetable for the preparation of the new local plan is set out in the Local Development Scheme, which was last updated in June 2021:
- September 2021: an initial consultation framed the content and scope of the plan
- September 2022: the resulting outline draft plan has been published for a public consultation running from 26 September to 19 December
- February 2023: a revised detailed draft plan (the “publication” version) will be published for formal comments (“representations”) on its legal compliance and soundness
- June 2023: the resulting detailed draft final plan will be submitted to the planning inspectorate with formal comments and supporting evidence
- October 2023: a planning inspector will examine the submissions, hold plan examination hearings, propose changes (which may entail further consultation) then produce a final report
- June 2024: the final plan will be adopted.
The council has been saying that an additional round of public consultation will take place before the draft final plan will be submitted to the planning inspectorate, however the formal development scheme does not mention this stage and would need to be changed to accommodate it.
As the publication version of the plan is currently supposed to be ready in February 2023, a deadline the council cannot meet, it appears the plan delivery timetable has already slipped.
The 2021-22 progress monitoring report was published at the end of last year.
At the same time as Exeter prepares its new local plan, national planning system reform is on the way based on ideas which survived the failure of the 2020 planning white paper.
The Town and County Planning Association disagreed, describing it as a “decisive shift of power to Whitehall” which includes the removal of existing rights in relation to the planning process and new powers for the government to change the system through secondary legislation and override local planning policy in decision-making.
The Local Government Association has published a useful analysis of the bill’s planning provisions.
They can cover environmental and energy efficiency standards, walking and cycling infrastructure specifications and public realm requirements, among many other development delivery details, and are expected to come into force before the new Exeter Local Plan is adopted.
The levelling-up bill was expected to reach royal assent in spring 2023, with secondary legislation to follow in 2024 and a transition period to allow “new style local plans” to be “delivered and adopted in waves” scheduled for completion by 2027.
However the bill’s status was cast into doubt under Liz Truss, who appointed yet another secretary of state to run the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the eighth holder of the post under the Conservative administration.
The growth plan announced during her brief premiership reasserted the government’s intention to turn the planning system upside down. Changes included planning deregulation to accelerate development which appeared to put affordable housing provision and environmental protections at risk in new “investment zones”.
The zones have since been scrapped, following Michael Gove’s reappointment as levelling-up secretary in new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet. His return has meant a revival of the erstwhile bill and a more moderate approach to planning reform than was expected under his predecessor.
However one key change that was announced under Liz Truss that could have major significance for Exeter has been retained: the abolition of the housing delivery targets central government imposes on local authorities.
Michael Gove initially said he intended to retain the targets, but as many as 100 Conservative MPs have since supported amendments to the levelling-up bill aimed at their abolition as well as reform of the five year housing land supply rule.
He subsequently confirmed that the government would amend the bill to water down the targets in a letter to Tory MPs.
The extent of prospective national planning system reform remains unclear. It may well alter the policy framework so much that the version of the new Exeter local plan that was presented for consultation last autumn could need significant revision before it is submitted to the planning inspectorate for examination.