2024 community share offer
2024 community share offer

THE EXETER DIGEST

Exeter Digest #29: Councillor conduct code breach - University comes clean on student numbers - Labour committee chairs

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TOP STORIES

EXETER COUNCILLOR YVONNE ATKINSON FOUND IN BREACH OF CODE OF CONDUCT BUT ESCAPES PROSECUTION

Summary of investigation related to rental property interests involving Devon & Cornwall Police and Crown Prosecution Service withheld by Devon County Council while councillor campaigned for re-election to Exeter City Council. Full story here.

UNIVERSITY COMES CLEAN ON TRUE EXETER CAMPUS STUDENT NUMBERS OVER PAST TWO DECADES

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information Act confirm between 7,500 and 12,000 more students based in city each year than university numbers suggest – until this year – with major implications for council planning policy. Full story here.

LABOUR COUNCILLORS AGAIN APPOINTED TO ALL THIRTEEN COMMITTEE CHAIRS AT ANNUAL COUNCIL MEETING

Council leader finally quits planning committee alongside other remaining Executive member but persists with secret board that enables scrutiny evasion. Full story here.

LOCAL NEWS THAT MATTERS

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EXETER IN BRIEF

MAGDALEN ROAD is expected to reopen on Saturday 27 May following pavement widening and its permanent conversion to one-way traffic at a cost of £1 million.

TOPSHAM LIBRARY is to move to a smaller upstairs space following a proposed rent increase for its current ground floor accommodation at Nancy Potter House. The library will close on 12 June and reopen on 27 June, and will be accessible via a lift.

EXETER CITY COUNCIL has promoted its ranking in a “Good Growth for Cities” accountancy firm report despite the report finding that Exeter’s economy is expected to contract significantly during 2023. The council neither mentions that it is the third worst performing city among the 50 surveyed nor provides a link to the report, which the council leader welcomed.

Industry regulator Ofwat has launched an enforcement investigation into SOUTH WEST WATER leakage performance reporting, the accuracy of which was in doubt following a November 2022 Ofwat assessment of the company’s progress in this area.

A Higher Education Policy Institute report has found that the 2021-22 cohort of 1,285 first-year Exeter INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS brought £140.7 million in net benefits to the UK economy, primarily in the form of tuition fees, accommodation provision and living costs and visitor expenditure. Exeter international student numbers have increased by 20% in the past two years.

PENINSULA TRANSPORT has published a South West transport decarbonisation strategy which hopes to reduce the 4.4 million tCO2e of greenhouse gas emissions the region’s transport currently generates each year. Current policy is only expected to address one quarter of the total by 2050.

An application to construct a 167-bed seven storey co-living block in SUMMERLAND STREET is expected to reignite controversy around Exeter City Council allowing the use of its land to provide “student accommodation in all but name”.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL has approved a £1.7 million 700 metre two-way segregated cycling scheme in Rifford Road to form part of the E12 north/south cycle route between Honiton Road and Ludwell Lane.

ON THE AGENDA

EXETER CITY COUNCIL is inviting reactions to its proposed amendments to its existing planning policy restrictions on the conversion of residential housing to multiple occupancy dwellings, frequently lived by students, near the university. There are exhibitions from 1-7pm on Wednesday 7 June at Exeter Guildhall, 1.30-7pm on Tuesday 13 June at Newtown Community Centre in Belmont Park and 1-7pm on Tuesday 20 June at St James Church Hall in Mount Pleasant Road. Printed copies of its plans will also be available at the Civic Centre and in libraries until the consultation concludes on 3 July.

The UNIVERSITY OF EXETER is inviting local residents to express their views on the future of Hoopern Valley, below Duryard Valley Park, where it is already intending to site a six acre 1.07MWp solar farm and substation which would involve fencing off part of the publicly-accessible greenspace. Other potential uses for the 38 acre mix of pasture and woodland through which Taddiford Brooke passes are a carbon sequestration and storage facility and a research resource which may involve the construction of buildings on the site. The consultation runs to 26 May.

A public consultation on a draft DEVON, CORNWALL AND ISLES OF SCILLY CLIMATE ADAPTATION STRATEGY which will attempt to minimise the impact of climate change on the South West peninsula is under way until 30 June. The full draft strategy is here. Publication of a revised, final version of the plan is expected in August before partnership organisations will be invited to endorse it during the autumn, four and a half years after Devon County Council convened the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group to “act now to tackle [the] climate emergency”.

ON OUR RADAR

WEDNESDAY 31 MAY // EXETER CLIMATE HUB

How can Exeter Observer help our city to thrive? Come along to an informal event loosely themed around democracy and governance and share your ideas on how we might grow the independent journalism Exeter needs. More info here.

SATURDAY 10 & SUNDAY 11 JUNE // BELMONT PARK

Exeter Respect Festival returns for its 26th year with live music and performance, food stalls, campaigners and community groups. More info here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

EXETER ELECTORAL TECTONIC PLATES RUMBLE AS POLITICAL LANDSCAPE SHIFTS

Labour takes second Conservative seat in Topsham but loses in St Thomas to Liberal Democrats as Green wins in Heavitree, St David’s and Newtown & St Leonards place party second in 2023 city council elections. Full story here.

EXETER CITY COUNCIL 2023 LOCAL ELECTIONS RESULTS

The votes cast, ballot share and change by party plus turnout and postal votes in each ward with the overall distribution of seats. Full story here.

HOW FAR DOES THE COUNCIL LEADER HAVE TO GO BEFORE HE SEES A PLANNING COMMITTEE CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

Phil Bialyk led charge against application to develop site 160 yards from his house despite conduct codes and LGA planning probity guidance. Full story here.

COUNCILLOR FALSELY LABELS COMMUNITY GRANTS CUTS STORY “MISINFORMATION”

Labour’s Martin Pearce brands Exeter Observer “opposition propaganda” at full city council meeting, earning rebuke from Lord Mayor and putting council at risk of code of practice breach during pre-election period. Full story here.



Recent stories
Exeter Science Park main building

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Council sinks additional £1.25m into struggling Exeter Science Park as company unable to repay £7m debts

Serial scrutiny failures continue as emergency meeting held to increase city council exposure to joint venture to more than £2 million on top of £450,000 project costs plus £950,000 guarantee but rescue plan risks repeating earlier strategic mistakes.

Illustrative view of development beside Gabriel's Wharf

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Revised Water Lane redevelopment plans submitted for outline approval

Application for up to 980 dwellings and up to 320 student bedspaces with 40,000m2 of other uses on ex-industrial site between railway embankment and Exeter Ship Canal obfuscates numerous key issues.

Exeter City Council 2023-24 unaudited statement of accounts cover image

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Annual inspection period begins as unaudited 2023-24 city council accounts published

Special information access rights enabling residents to examine records apply until 12 July as two preceding years' accounts still not signed off and auditor's inquiry into council governance and financial and performance management continues.

Exeter St Thomas station access

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Exeter St Thomas improvement bid rejected as Devon denied step-free access funding for five years

Two-thirds of Access for All money to go to Conservative seats as low-key Department for Transport announcement finds its way into constituency-level news stories and political PR across the country.

Howell Road garage student block illustrative elevation

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Howell Road garage for sale a week after student block redevelopment plans granted at appeal

Developer denied he would 'spin in and spin out and take my profit' at planning committee that approved 'backstop' plans for nine flats on site, saying student block was 'what we want to build'.

Howell Road garage

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

26-bed Howell Road garage site student accommodation block allowed at appeal

St James Neighbourhood Plan community balance aims discounted and council policy and evidence deemed insufficient in inspector's decision to overturn planning committee refusal.

On Our Radar
More stories
Exeter Academy English language school in Sylvan Road, Pennsylvania

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Plan to convert language school to nursery to test credibility of city council active travel policy

Exeter Academy sits near top of steep hill 250 feet above city, far from accessible bus and rail routes, but developer claims local plan compliance in 'demonstrably sustainable location' which is 'conducive to sustainable modes of travel'.

Corner of Fore Street and West Street with St Mary Steps church in the background

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Developers claim council planning committee refusal was 'if not malevolent, certainly misguided'

Appeal against decision to deny fifth additional storey in build-to-rent scheme above Crankhouse Coffee accuses councillors of seeking to 'appease the weight of objectors' orchestrated opinion' against amendments to eleven year-old consent.

Exeter City Council ballot share by ward 2016 to 2024 line graph

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter bucks national trend as Labour support falls 6% and party loses vote share in all but one ward

Independent group, Greens and LibDems all take seats and Conservatives increase share in four wards as Labour stays in control of council after close call in Mincinglake & Whipton, holds in key battlegrounds and third Topsham win.

, updated

Exeter City Council 2024 local elections results party seat distribution

BRIEFINGS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Council 2024 local elections results

The votes cast for each candidate with vote share and vote share change by party in each ward, plus turnout and the distribution of seats.

, updated

2024 Exeter local elections guide graphic showing current council seat distribution

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

2024 Exeter local elections guide

City council elections take place on Thursday 2 May. Our comprehensive guide covers who's standing where, wards to watch and the backdrop to this year's ballot, which promises to be the most unpredictable contest in years.

Exeter Labour 2024 campaign leaflet

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Council raids community fund for £6 million to pay for eight year-old food waste collection promise

Emergency decision to finance materials reclamation facility investment taken less than a week before 2024 local elections campaign officially began.

Spotlight
Spring 2024 community share offer

Exeter Observer celebrates five years of local public interest news publishing

Invest in our Spring 2024 community share offer to help us deliver all the independent journalism Exeter needs and make it five more.

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