Exeter Observer contributors

Bethany Collins

Bethany Collins is a recent University of Exeter graduate, where she received a first class degree in politics with a specialism in representation.

While at university she was an editor of and contributing writer for student newspaper Exeposé.

She is now focussed on examining and holding to account the representative function of Exeter local government.

@bethanyjcollins

Bryn Truscott

Bryn Truscott is a software engineer interested in climate change and the environment, as well as a keen photographer.

Chris Musgrave

Chris Musgrave is a trade union official, political activist and former Exeter city councillor.

He has a background in employment law, campaigning and election management, and has a passion for social and economic justice and protecting the environment.

Chris was also Chair of Trustees for Exeter-based Intercom Trust, an advocacy charity supporting LGBT+ communities across the South West.

Since deciding not to stand for re-election in 2019 he has focussed on democratic and financial scrutiny of local government, seeking to expose waste and inconsistency wherever he finds it.

@chris_musgrave

Chris Wood

Chris Wood is a computer programmer, climate activist, philosopher and grandfather.

He marched with Rock against Racism in the 1970’s, hitch-hiked around Europe and worked as a despatch rider before teaching himself programming and starting a software company.

Chris has worked with Exeter’s youth offending team, been a children’s advocate and, on occasion, jumped out of perfectly fine aeroplanes.

He has also studied philosophy and psychology at Oxford as a mature student.

His software development company had offices in Surrey and California until the family moved to Devon at the turn of the millennium for a radical life change.

@joffa42

Claire Wright

Claire Wright was an independent councillor on Devon County Council and parliamentary candidate for East Devon.

She became a Devon County Councillor in 2013, winning the largest majority of any county councillor two terms running. She represented Otter Valley and sat on the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, among other appointments.

She stood as an independent parliamentary candidate for East Devon in 2015 and 2017, when she won a 25% vote share. Her 2019 campaign attracted national media attention when an MRP YouGov poll found she was the most likely independent to be elected in Britain.

However, despite increasing her vote share to over 40% the national swing preserved 150 years of continuous Conservative East Devon representation at Westminster.

She was previously a councillor on East Devon District Council from 2011 to 2015 and Ottery St Mary Town Council from 2009 to 2013. Her professional background is in public relations, mainly for the NHS and other public sector organisations.

Other posts have included Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, which represents the position of local government to Whitehall, with a focus on health and social care. She is also a Woodland Trust Tree Champion for Devon.

Find out more about Claire on her website.

@ClaireWrightInd

Daniel Clark

Daniel Clark was a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Exeter.

He covered Devon County Council and the county’s district councils and other public service organisations for Local News Partnerships, a BBC-funded public interest democracy reporting scheme in which Exeter Observer is a partner.

@HEDanielClark

Freya Garry

Freya Garry is a member of the UK Climate Resilience team based at the Met Office in Exeter.

Freya’s work contributes to a UK wide project on Climate Resilience, the Strategic Priority Fund for Climate Resilience.

Freya is passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion across science and is involved with diversity initiatives in Exeter.

Freya co-founded the Women in Climate network at the University of Exeter, is involved in the PRISM Exeter network and is a keen climate science communicator, participating in the Climate Stories project.

Find out more about Freya on her Met Office profile page.

@freyagarry

Jenna McGill

Jenna McGill is a court reporter who did her NCTJ Diploma portfolio work experience with Exeter Observer.

@JennaMcGill20

Laura Davies

Laura Davies has a background in education, teaching in London primary schools for seven years during which time she was an active union member.

She has worked for a number of independent, local businesses since moving to Exeter seven years ago, and has become increasingly involved in climate activism.

Laura is a keen cyclist, ornithologist and part-time DJ, regularly playing at Exeter Pride.

@lauradaviesdj

Leigh Curtis

Leigh Curtis is membership co-ordinator and community & culture editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

She has a background in print design and production and project and account management with leading London media and design agencies.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she has also managed exhibitions and degree shows.

@leighcurtis

Louise Stinchcombe

Louise Stinchcombe is a freelance educator specialising in religious studies and history and has more than ten years' experience working in a range of educational institutions.

She graduated with an MA in Religion in Global Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 2017 and continues to take an active interest in world politics, conflicts and gender-based violence.

Louise is a budding naturalist with a keen interest in conservation and rewilding and has been involved in climate activism since 2018.

@loustinch

Martin Redfern

Martin Redfern is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

He has 30 years’ experience working with public and private sector organisations in multi-stakeholder contexts to achieve social change goals, and has been actively engaged with public policy and practice around climate change since the 1992 Rio Summit.

He holds a Master’s degree with distinction in Journalism at Birkbeck, University of London and has a background in campaigning, project management and multimedia design and development.

He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists and the Society of Editors and is an accredited UK press card holder.

@martinredfern

Mike Myshko

Mike Myshko is a film-maker, photographer and designer.

He has a background in physics, animation and web development, and is passionate about telling unique stories and helping bring small projects to life.

After working on a number of well-received feature films, co-producing and selling an award-winning film to a major streaming platform, he is developing personal projects focussed on environmental issues, democracy and minority voices.

He has skills in branding, identity and web design alongside grading, compositing, motion graphics and post supervision.

Mike also has a first class BSc in Broadcast Technology and is a member of BECTU.

Find out more about Mike on his website.

@heymyshko

Mike Walton

Mike Walton is Chair of Exeter Cycling Campaign, a charity which promotes safe, convenient cycling in and around Exeter.

Exeter Cycling Campaign wants to see cycling become an everyday choice in Exeter for people of every age and ability on safe, direct, connected and convenient paths.

It believes that cycling delivers a clean, space-efficient way for people to travel which contributes to tackling key challenges including air pollution, traffic congestion and unhealthy lifestyles.

Find our more on the Exeter Cycling Campaign website.

@miketwalton

Moragh Mason

Moragh Mason is a researcher for Exeter Observer.

She has a background in the public sector in a variety of roles including investigation and research report writing.

Having escaped the world of work she continues to put her research skills to good use.

She is particularly concerned about the loss of green space in Exeter and was involved in the campaign to save the Clifton Hill sports centre site from development.

Naomi Parkinson

Naomi Parkinson is an artist and campaigner working in marketing and events.

She has lived in East Devon since completing a degree in Film and English in London.

She is an environmental campaigner and active community participant, recently contributing to independent Claire Wright’s general election campaign.

@NaomiDJPerfect

Ollie Heptinstall

Ollie Heptinstall is a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Exeter.

He covers Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, Teignbridge District Council and Mid Devon District Council as well as Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue for Local News Partnerships, a BBC-funded public interest democracy reporting scheme in which Exeter Observer is a partner.

@OliHepy

Peter Cleasby

Peter Cleasby is a contributing editor of Exeter Observer.

A former senior civil servant, specialising in policy development and managing public business, he subsequently became a freelance policy, management and governance consultant and a trustee of several national and local charities.

He has since escaped from the boardroom and works - unpaid, of course - as an Exmouth Coastwatch watch-keeper, Exeter Green Party research officer and campaigner for openness in public life, as well as doing any other interesting odd jobs that crop up from time to time.

@Peter_Cleasby

Piers Forster

Piers Forster is Professor of Physical Climate Change and Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds, and a member of the UK Climate Change Committee.

He has played a significant role authoring Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports including a co-ordinating lead author role for the IPCC sixth assessment report.

@piersforster

Roz Harding

Roz Harding is a jazz saxophonist who teaches at Exeter College where she also leads the Jazz Project and Jambassadors.

She has performed in a wide variety of ensembles and recording projects. Her music has been played on Jazz FM and BBC Radio 6 Music and she has played live on air for BBC Radio 3 and at venues including Ronnie Scotts, The Vortex, London Jazz Festival, Kings Place, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Women in Jazz and Birmingham Jazz.

She can be found playing in Mike Westbrook’s The Uncommon Orchestra, Kate Westbrook’s GRANITE, Dave Holdsworth’s New Brew, Emma Welton’s A Quiet Night In, Billie Bottle and the Multiple and leading her own project SUPERMOOD. She has also started working with Tom Glazebrook and his visual theory of music Meta-Harmony.

Roz has been involved in numerous youth projects in the UK and Europe, including Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra, and teaches at Exeter College, Plymouth University and South West Music School.

Sam Sleeman

Sam Sleeman is a climate activist, writer and student.

Sam works with Fridays for Future Exeter to mobilise the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement and organise around a Green New Deal.

He is reading Human, Social and Political Science at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and has been published in The Guardian, The Ecologist, The Big Issue and Open Democracy.

Sam enjoys cycling, climbing on Dartmoor and making documentaries.

@sleeman_sam

Vanessa Miles

Vanessa Miles is a portrait, editorial and events photographer and photography educator with a special interest in how to use positive environmental imagery to engage the public with climate and biodiversity debates.

She has been a photography tutor at Exeter Phoenix since 2013 and is a director of Well Image Community Interest Company, a social enterprise which helps people develop their creativity and enhance their mental and physical wellbeing using photography.

She has exhibited at Exeter Phoenix, Exeter Picture House, Plymouth Art Weekender and The Art Institute, Plymouth and her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Times, Country Life, The Ecologist and Resurgence.

She works with individuals, workshop groups, families and organisations and is a frequent collaborator on scientific and environmental projects.

Vanessa has a long history photographing all things environmental stemming from setting up The Environmental Picture Library in London in 1989, the first independent picture library specialising in environmental issues in the UK.

Find out more about Vanessa on her portfolio website.

@VMilesPhoto

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.

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
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