2024 community share offer
2024 community share offer
Exeter Observer contributors

Martin Redfern

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

He writes many of our news stories and features, leads our investigative research and maintains the Exeter Observer website.

He is an accredited UK press card holder, a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists and the Society of Editors and holds a masters degree in Journalism with distinction at Birkbeck, University of London.

Stories with Martin Redfern
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.

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.

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

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 Community Lottery homepage

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Australian multinational is biggest council lottery winner as 92% of local causes receive less than £500

Operator collects £26,000 and city council £16,000 in first nine months as public support for Exeter voluntary and community organisations turned into private profit.

Devon County Council Devon and Torbay devolution deal consultation results bar chart

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

County council to impose new local government tier despite majority opposition to devolution deal

Emptiness of claims that new combined authority will be accountable reflected in failure to respect consultation results as all eight Devon district councils decry prospective democratic deficit.

Auditor value for money arrangements recommendations summary chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Auditor broadens inquiry to include Exeter City Futures and ex-CEO secondment to liquidated company

More 'significant weaknesses' found in city council governance and financial and performance management arrangements while St Sidwell's Point valued at £7 million less than build cost and £370,000 ex-CEO final year pay and benefits confirmed.

Devon & Torbay Combined County Authority governance structure diagram

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Devon devolution deal to create unaccountable local government layer for paltry £16 million payoff

Democratic deficit to increase as city and district councils lose control over housing and prosperity funding and transport policy powers moved out of reach, while county council plans to approve deal irrespective of public consultation outcome.

Wonford Community Wellbeing Hub option seven plan crop

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

£1+ million for Wonford community hub project development but £7 million build finance not yet found

City council presented £750,000 'feasibility proposal' as progression of existing plans despite having to start again after three years to cut costs, with Exeter City Living awarded £550,000 project contract.

Proposed Heavitree Road bus lane bus priority signals

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Bus corridor consultation presents more incremental changes to Exeter road network

£2.4 million Heavitree and Pinhoe Road 'upgrades' have 'potential for an approximate four-minute journey time saving' at peak times along length of each corridor.

Southgate development site heritage map

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Secretary of State overturns council decision to waive Southgate site Environmental Impact Assessment

Proposals for up to 200 flats in high-rise tower blocks have potentially significant impacts on Exe Estuary avian flightpaths, Exeter Cathedral skyline, listed buildings and ancient city walls placing protected landscapes and heritage assets at risk.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Clifton Hill redevelopment illustrative elevation

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Revised proposals to sell council land for co-living and high-spec housing discount site viability issues

Council leader's Clifton Hill and Mary Arches car park sale amendments agreed by Executive without discussing financial consequences, including multi-million pound value losses compelling sale of other assets to cover Exeter City Living debts.

University of Exeter St Luke's campus boundary aerial view

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

University seeks views on St Luke's campus redevelopment

Eleven acre teaching and research site between Heavitree Road and Magdalen Road to become 'health and wellbeing' campus and may include student accommodation.

Clifton Hill sports centre development site

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Clifton Hill sports centre site - with adjacent green space - and Mary Arches car park set for sale for PBSA

Reversal of policy to prohibit Purpose Built Student Accommodation on city council land proposed to cover expected £9 million outstanding Exeter City Living debt, with £800,000 budget proposed for site disposal costs.

Sandy Park stadium

NEWS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

City council gives Exeter Chiefs permission to hold Sandy Park concerts with 15,500 attendees

Permanent consent for six weekend events between 1 May and 15 July each year with amplified music to 10.30pm follows four trial concerts with audiences of just 3,500.

Illustrative elevations facing Cowley Bridge Road

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

City council approves Cowley Bridge Road student blocks on former Johnsons site

350 bedspaces in four blocks up to six storeys tall to be built on windfall site left vacant after 2020 fire at former laundry and workwear factory.

University of Exeter social mobility awards graphic

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter promotes social mobility 'silver awards' after being ranked 92nd in HEPI index

Higher Education Policy Institute social mobility ranking follows landmark study placing university 103rd in higher education social mobility league table, while South West young people are least likely to attend university in the country.

Exeter housing

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Exeter has 3,100 vacant and empty second homes, nearly 6% of city's housing stock

ONS also finds South West has 183,000 unoccupied dwellings with another 200,000 in use as second homes in the region, of which more than 4,000 are in Exeter, as statutory homelessness increases and rough sleeping doubles in city.

JCDecaux illuminated street advertising screen

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Planning inspectors uphold decisions to refuse illuminated city centre advertising screens

Appeal dismissals conclude JCDecaux 'multifunction hubs' would materially harm character, appearance and visual amenity and have 'very limited' benefits in Sidwell Street, Paris Street and South Street with High Street hub decision to follow.

, updated

Seabrook Orchards phase three illustration

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Seabrook Orchards development plans submitted one house short of key planning condition threshold

Residents group says Bloor Homes application does not address pedestrian and cycle connectivity and is 'seeking to actively avoid delivery' of agreed transport infrastructure.

Maketank window display

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Maketank community arts centre closes after more than four years at the heart of Exeter cultural life

Crown Estate unwilling to renew lease after problems with roof preclude repairs in block scheduled for demolition as part of CityPoint redevelopment.

Heavitree & Whipton active streets trial scheme map

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Heavitree & Whipton Active Streets trial consultation to restart as taxi bus gate use introduced

More than 4,000 responses submitted in first eleven weeks with 1,650 people attending public exhibitions on scheme intended to reduce motor vehicle through traffic and increase walking and cycling.

3D view of proposed development

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Planning inspector upholds Union Road HMO back garden student block refusal

Appeal against city council decision dismissed as similar application by same student landlord in Pennsylvania Road HMO garden under consideration.

New Exeter local plan graphic

BRIEFINGS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

City council holds consultation on full draft of new Exeter Local Plan, set to guide development to 2040

Second major consultation begins as government introduces sweeping national planning system reforms including transfer of powers to Whitehall and changes to scope of local plans and local plan-making processes.

, updated

New Exeter Local Plan Water Lane site allocation map

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Water Lane SPD consultation opens in parallel with local plan survey

Policy intends to provide development framework and design code for 90 acre site on which 1,600 new dwellings plus employment space expected by 2040.

, updated

Policy on extensions and building lines on corner plot sites - illustrative diagram

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

City council seeks comments on draft Householder's Guide to extensions and alterations

Policy covers size and position, materials, boundary relationships, loft conversions, dormers, solar panels and roof terraces, among other residential development design considerations.

, updated

Devon County Council transport expenditure 2022-23 bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Motor vehicle infrastructure still dominates Devon transport spending despite climate claims

2022-23 roads spending remains unchanged at 87% of total as county council diverts rail money to increase active travel capital expenditure by just 1%.

South West area employment rates 2012 to 2023 line graph

NEWS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Exeter employment rate second lowest in South West for second year running

Economic inactivity levels related to large student and retiree population remain high, creating recruitment challenges from healthcare to refuse collection, but council celebrates top retirement destination ranking as 'more good news'.

Proposed south elevation

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Plans for flats in back gardens of Longbrook Street student HMOs submitted for approval

Application for six-bed three-storey block on what is now car park used by commuters does not address neighbourhood plan community balance concerns.

Just Stop Oil protestor George Simonson on the University of Exeter Forum entrance portico

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Just Stop Oil protest puts university fossil fuel financing under spotlight

University of Exeter tops UK fossil fuel funding table following £14.7 million deal with Shell but has more than one close relationship with major emissions producers.

Larkbeare House

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

County council to sell land and buildings worth up to £10 million to raise money and cut costs

Wedding venue Larkbeare House and gardens, County Hall residential development land and Compass House, home of adult mental health service Talkworks, among assets for disposal as part of property rationalisation programme.

Exeter City Living hoarding at Clifton Hill sports centre development site

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Living to be all-but wound up after £4.5 million losses with £10 million owed to council

Council expects resulting resale value of surrendered Clifton Hill development site not to cover company's debts, with remaining losses to be written off, as Liveable Exeter vision thrown into doubt and councillors evade responsibility for failure.

Southgate development site plan

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Southgate development of up to 200 new flats on Magdalen Street car park to alter Western Way gyratory

Screening opinion concludes no significant environmental impact will result from Liveable Exeter scheme.

, updated

Proposed Summerland Street 'co-living' block illustrative aerial view

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Revised proposals for Summerland Street 'co-living' block submitted

Developer of 147-bedspace six storey scheme on city council land claims it will contribute to local housing need, ensure 'mixed and balanced communities' and enhance the local conservation area.

NHS logo

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Radiographers join consultants and junior doctors on strike at Royal Devon NHS Trust

First industrial action of its kind comes as government consults on plans to threaten health staff with dismissal to compel them to work on strike days.

St Thomas library

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

St Thomas library forced to relocate when lease expires in November

Landlord Exeter Estates Holdings, controlled by Exeter Chiefs CEO and chairman Tony Rowe, sought substantial rent increase after withdrawing planning application to demolish library building and replace it with block of thirteen flats.

Exeter City Council litter bin

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Council to remove a quarter of city's 800 litter bins

It says many are under-used because they are in the wrong place or too close to other bins, and that city centre bins will be 'largely unaffected'.

The remains of the Royal Clarence Hotel in Cathedral Yard

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Royal Clarence Hotel rebuild finally granted planning permission

Agreed developer contributions do not include planned education provision and may be significantly reduced after construction is complete.

Empty Co-Cars parking bay in College Road, Exeter

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Co-Cars liquidation expected to leave creditor and shareholder losses of more than £1.3 million

Sale of Co-Bikes fleet and spare parts agreed for just 4.5% of £600,000 book value after significant grant funding and investment fail to float shared mobility provider.

Illustrative elevation facing St Luke's campus

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Developer appeals Heavitree Road police station & magistrates court student/co-living blocks refusal

Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner and offshore-registered PBSA Heavitree Road S.A.R.L. seek to overturn Exeter City Council decision to reject application for 964-bed development beside The Gorge.

Royal Devon and Exeter hospital

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Four day strike by consultants and junior doctors at Royal Devon NHS Trust

Industrial action affecting almost all planned care marks first time consultants and junior doctors have taken strike action together.

St Petrock's mobile rough sleeper service

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

St Petrock's shortlisted for National Lottery project of the year award

Mobile rough sleeper service among seventeen finalists shortlisted from nearly 4,000 applicants to reach public vote stage of national award.

County Hall

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

County council forecasts £9.3 million overspend on top of £36.6 million SEND services deficit

Additional £10 million service delivery cuts, mostly from adult social care and children's services, to be allocated to government 'safety valve' deficit programme.

NHS Devon map

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Nearly 60,000 patients on Devon NHS dental services waiting list

Report says number of adults able to access NHS dentist in Devon has fallen to less than 40% as practices hand back contracts and commissioners struggle to procure replacement providers.

Wellbeing Exeter community building graphic

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Devon County Council cuts £270,000 Wellbeing Exeter partnership funding

Decision made in parallel with homelessness prevention funding cut decisions following January announcement of £50 million of unspecified 2023-24 budget cuts.

Cover of Exeter City Council draft 2023-27 housing strategy

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

City council seeks feedback on council housing strategy

Exeter City Council is seeking feedback on a draft 2023-27 council housing strategy that will guide the way it manages its stock of 4,800 rented homes and 1,000 leasehold properties over the next five years.

View of the original proposals from New Bridge Street

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Exeland House 'co-living' proposals revised to address 'extreme increase in flood risks'

Environment Agency says most new residential development in River Exe floodplain 'will be required to be at first floor or higher' to deal with 'future flood risks exacerbated by climate change'.

The Gorge marketing graphic

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

First Exeter 'co-living' rooms advertised to let from £1,045-£1,360 per month plus council tax

£40,800 minimum salary to rent 26.5 square metre room in six storey 133-unit block, promoted as two minutes' walk from university St Luke's campus, requiring tenants among top 20% of Exeter earners – or with wealthy guarantors.

Illustrative view of the development

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Plans for eighteen 'zero carbon' bungalows on Church Hill field submitted for approval

Low density development proposal on unallocated site above Pinhoe conflicts with local plan policies intended to protect Exeter's northern hills and landscape setting.

Proposed floor plans and elevations

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Plans for PBSA in back garden of Pennsylvania Road student HMO submitted for approval

Application for six-bed two-storey block cites neighbouring student block in back garden beside Devonshire Place orchard and play area as precedent.

Exeter City Futures branding

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter City Futures board minutes published nearly nine months after meeting held

Minutes confirm Global City Futures work on Exeter Development Fund continues via direct city council contract framework and suggest university could retain brand after company dissolution.

Pendragon Road greenfield development illustrative layout

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Pendragon Road development of 100 greenfield homes in Exeter's northern hills allowed at appeal

City council decision to refuse outline permission overturned by planning inspector citing 50% affordable housing provision and housing supply shortfall.

Howell Road garage covered in graffiti

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

City council grants Howell Road garage flats permission despite pending PBSA appeal on same site

Developer still aims to build student accommodation block saying flats would be 'backstop' against loss of appeal while St James residents concerned students will occupy development either way.

Victoria Street co-living proposal illustrative view

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

101-bed 'co-living' complex proposed in the heart of St James

Council vision for city's future on collision course with neighbourhood plan policies in Victoria Street scheme described as 'yet more student housing by stealth'.

Cover of Exeter City Council 2022-23 unaudited statement of accounts

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Annual inspection period begins as unaudited 2022-23 city council accounts published

Special information access rights enabling local residents to examine records and ask council and external auditor related questions apply until 12 October.

The Gorge co-living development under construction

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

New Community Infrastructure Levy charges to be introduced by city council

Charges levied on most new development towards the cost of infrastructure that is needed to mitigate its impact are to change in line with council proposals that discount co-living development to facilitate its delivery.

Illustrative view of proposed development

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Water Lane redevelopment outline plans submitted to city council for approval

Up to 980 dwellings and 40,000m2 of other uses including student accommodation, workspace, education, retail and a hotel envisaged on ex-industrial site between railway embankment and the canal.

Heavitree and Whipton Active Streets modal filter illustration

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

New Heavitree & Whipton Active Streets scheme public exhibitions

Devon County Council is holding two further public exhibitions of the Heavitree and Whipton Active Streets scheme from 4.30-6.30pm on 12 September at Whipton Community Hall and at the same time on 14 September at St Mark’s Church Hall.

Royal Devon and Exeter hospital

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Two day strike by consultants at Royal Devon NHS Trust

A two day strike by consultants at the Royal Devon NHS Trust is being held from 7am on Thursday 24 August.

3 Rivers Developments development plan

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Council-owned property development company to be dissolved

Mid Devon District Council is expected to wind up 3 Rivers Developments Ltd, a failing property development company it set up in 2017 and has since loaned more than £21 million.

Just Stop Oil Exeter protest march

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Just Stop Oil protests arrive in Exeter

Slow march from Sidwell Street to Northernhay Gardens first action in city by group calling for end to UK fossil fuel exploration, development and production.

Bus lane

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Public consultation on county council moving traffic offence enforcement powers

Devon County Council is holding a public consultation until 18 September on its plans to adopt moving traffic offence enforcement powers and introduce Automatic Number Place Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

Exeter St David's station manager's office

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Exeter St David's station manager's office to be demolished

Network Rail has notified the city council that it plans to demolish the former superintendent’s office building at Exeter St David’s station in October.

NHS logo

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Four day strike by junior doctors at Royal Devon NHS Trust

A four day strike by junior doctors at the Royal Devon NHS Trust is being held from 7am on Friday 11 August.

Rough sleeper at Exeter Guildhall

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Devon County Council pauses homelessness prevention cuts

Devon County Council has paused its plans to cut a £1.5 million homelessness prevention budget following a campaign led by YMCA Exeter.

Tyre Extinguishers logo

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Tyre Extinguishers destroy Matford Jaguar dealership SUV tyres

Climate activists drilled holes in all four of the tyres of more than 60 SUVs parked at a Jaguar dealership in Matford during the early hours of Monday 7 August.

Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership area map

NEWS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership to be wound up

The government has confirmed that the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership will be wound up in April next year.

Heavitree and Whipton Active Streets illustration

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Heavitree and Whipton Active Streets scheme trial begins

The Heavitree and Whipton Active Streets scheme trial has begun. The first six months, to 2 February 2024, are a statutory consultation period during which residents and organisations are invited to comment on the scheme.

Cover of Exeter City Council draft digital customer service strategy

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

City council invites comments on digital customer service transformation

Exeter City Council is inviting comments until 15 September on a draft digital customer service strategy that aims to make more efficient use of council resources by increasing its reliance on digital technology for service delivery.

University of Exeter Duryard Valley solar farm development site plan

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Council approves university solar farm in Duryard Valley greenfield

Officers say harm resulting from development of publicly-accessible urban green space outweighed by benefits of renewable energy generation.

Exeter Climate Action Hub opening ceremony

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter Climate Action Hub threatened with closure by Crown Estate and Princesshay partners

Agents will not renew lease beyond 15 August or consider other accommodation, claiming all similarly-sized units in half-empty shopping centre are under offer.

, updated

Rough sleeper sheltering at Exeter Guildhall

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

County council determined to axe homelessness prevention funding despite zero support for cuts

Fate of £1.5 million contract sealed before consultation began with district councils and services providers kept in dark and huge prospective financial and human costs, dwarfing claimed savings, ignored.

St Sidwell's Point leisure centre behind derelict Exeter bus station

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

£1 million leisure overspend fuels £3.2 million city council deficit

2022-23 budget review confirms £2.2 million annual leisure subsidy to continue with St Sidwell's Point expected to make a loss for at least five years while another £22 million to be spent on Exeter City Living Vaughan Road development.

Casting House Water Lane development site compulsory purchase

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Compulsory purchase of flats and disposal of council land to enable Water Lane development site access

Exeter City Council to use powers to provide developer with land for new highways layout at gateway to proposed low-traffic neighbourhood.

Exeter City Council consultants' Article 4 direction area report option 3 map

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Council student accommodation policy proposals overlook 50-80% of student-occupied housing stock

Article 4 direction & HMO SPD consultation omits key information, confuses licensing and planning matters, misrepresents NPPF requirements and proposes barely discernible changes in place of needed new Exeter Local Plan policies.

Closed doors at County Hall

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Closed doors at County Hall for councillor conduct hearings

A survey of local authority approaches to standards committee hearings finds Devon County Council alone in imposing private determination of conduct complaints.

AirBnB website listing page

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

, updated

University of Exeter students 2001-2023 Freedom Of Information Act responses vs published Full-Time Equivalent numbers line chart

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

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.

Exeter City Council annual meeting

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter City Council party seat distribution after 2023 local elections

BRIEFINGS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Council 2023 local elections results

The votes cast for each candidate in each ward plus turnout and postal votes with the overall distribution of seats.

Exeter City Council ballot share by ward 2016-23

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Satellite image showing two minute pedestrian route from The Cottage, Nadderwater to Newbery car breakers, Redhills

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

Exeter City Council community grants budgets including 2023-24 virements bar chart

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

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.

SATURDAY 27 MAY 2023

Romeo and Juliet

Troubadour Stageworks presents an accessible, family-friendly production of Shakespeare's tragic romance.

POLTIMORE HOUSE

Electoral Commission voting options graphic

BRIEFINGS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

When, where and how to vote in the 2023 Exeter local elections

Our guide to casting your ballot in person, by post and by proxy as well as the new voter ID requirements.

2023 Exeter local elections guide graphic showing current council seat distribution

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

2023 Exeter local elections guide

City council elections take place on Thursday 4 May. Our essential guide highlights who's standing where, wards to watch and what the results might be. It also covers the wider context, voter ID and the impact of First Past the Post in Exeter elections.

Harry Johnson-Hill Exeter Duryard & St James and Winchester Alresford & Itchen Valley candidate local elections campaign leaflets

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter local elections candidate is also standing in Winchester

University of Exeter student Harry Johnson-Hill hopes to represent voters both in Duryard & St James and at home in Alresford & Itchen Valley, 100 miles away.

TUESDAY 2 TO SATURDAY 13 MAY 2023

Make Your Own Book festival

An exhibition exploring local independent book and art creators with a weekend of storytelling, illustration and book-making workshops.

MAKETANK

Clouds gather over County Hall

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Devon County Council admits 'serious, material, well-evidenced' governance failures

Deficient SEND and children's services combine with threat of section 114 bankruptcy notice to prompt 'root and branch' review aimed at restoring 'external confidence in the council's democratic legitimacy'.

, updated

St Sidwell's Point cafe

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

City council sustainable food policy is a climate crisis red herring

Proposed changes don't apply to council meetings or most council food provision and are expected to have unquantifiably small impact while diverting resources from major decarbonisation challenges.

Local authority economic activity levels change 2011-2021 census

NEWS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Decline in Exeter economic activity levels among largest in country

Census figures also show population increasing at nearly six times rate of job creation over past decade while healthcare, wholesale/retail and teaching make up nearly half of all employment, reflecting low pay and productivity.

Exeter City Council community grants budgets bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Council slashes community grants but splashes cash on paddling pools in contested wards

Exeter grants programme budget reduced from £425,000 to £15,000 leaving hundreds of grassroots groups out in the cold as the impact of borrowing takes its toll and council fails to consult on budget cuts despite auditor recommendation.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Council's approach to decision-making is damaging local democracy

Separation of powers and transparency provisions intended to safeguard public interest being subverted while council defies auditor over loss-making company.

Exeter empty and second homes by council tax band October 2022 bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  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

NEWS  ⁄  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.

Co-living - discover a new way to rent

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  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

COMMENT  ⁄  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.

Lottery graphic

ANALYSIS  ⁄  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

ANALYSIS  ⁄  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.

Striking nurses at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Historic nurses strike goes ahead after government refuses to negotiate over pay

Royal College of Nursing members out in force at Exeter NHS trusts alongside colleagues across the country as recruitment crisis threatens profession.

England and Wales water company 2021 pollution incidents per 10,000m2 of sewer bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

South West Water performance remains among worst in sector as it falls further behind targets

Regulator highlights 'sustained poor performance' after serious pollution incidents nearly triple and Environment Agency condemns company in annual assessment.

Exeter City Council 2020-21 external audit report cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  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.

University of Exeter full-time academic staff salary distribution 2020-21

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter lags behind on female pay and employment terms

HESA figures show poor performance compared with Universities UK members and only incremental changes over past five years, mostly since staff began industrial action over pay, pensions and working conditions.

Student houses in multiple occupation to let in Raleigh Road, Exeter

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Information Commissioner to investigate university over student accommodation numbers refusal

Compliance failure follows university admission that nearly 39,000 students based at Exeter campuses in 2021-22, suggesting around three quarters of city's private rented housing stock occupied by students.

Devon County Council 2022-24 capital transport programme allocations

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Motor vehicle infrastructure continues to dominate Devon transport spending

New active travel infrastructure to receive just 5% share of capital allocations this year and next, with new roads capital expenditure to increase from 74% to 86%.

Clydesdale, Nash and Birks Grange Village redevelopment illustrative elevations

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

University holds public consultation on 1,700 bed West Park redevelopment design

Outline plans to demolish 30 buildings and construct 50,000m2 of student accommodation on fifteen acre Streatham campus site did not comply with university or council environmental policies.

Exeter adults who do any walking or cycling for any purpose 2016 to 2021 bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Figures show declining Exeter walking and cycling rates as active travel delivery falls by the wayside

County council plans to remove Queen Street active travel infrastructure despite road space reallocation commitments expose equivocal city transport policy aim.

Exeter borough and Exmouth and East Exeter county constituency boundary changes final proposals combined map

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Pinhoe, St Loye's and Topsham all in new Exmouth and East Exeter constituency under revised changes

Final boundary commission consultation follows city council proposal to move marginal Pinhoe to safe Conservative seat and keep Priory Labour stronghold in city.

Exeter Purpose Built Student Accommodation map

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

University says 39,000 students – nearly 30% of city's population – based at Exeter campuses in 2021-22

Freedom of information request reveals 11,500 more students than published FTE figures with major implications for council planning policy but university refuses to disclose numbers in PBSA vs residential housing stock.

Illustrative ground floor plan

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Heavitree Road developer gets sixth pitch for student/co-living complex

Eight design iterations, six council meetings, four consultation rounds and two deferrals combine to impede public participation in planning process on key Liveable Exeter site and increase chances of decision being overturned at appeal.

Computer generated aerial view of proposed development from south

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Flood risk threatens to sink Haven Banks redevelopment plans

Proposals for 434 rental units accommodating up to 1,167 people on 1.7 hectare Liveable Exeter site would deliver extreme housing densities that deny amenity to prospective occupants while inflicting significant impacts on existing residents.

Exeter City Council outline draft local plan site allocations crop

COMMENT  ⁄  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.

Exeter City Council government borrowing 2014-2022 bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Council borrowing nearly triples in three years as property acquisition and development loans mount

Freedom of information request reveals five paragraph 'outline business plan' for £55 million Guildhall shopping centre investment.

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Kidical Mass returns to Exeter's streets

Hundreds of people took part in Exeter's third Kidical Mass family bike ride on Saturday as part of a global campaign for safe cycling routes for children, young people and families.

New Exeter local plan cover

BRIEFINGS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

New Exeter Local Plan outline draft consultation

Our guide to Exeter City Council's consultation as well as the national planning system reform threatening major changes that would require significant revision to the new plan before its submission to the planning inspectorate.

, updated

Extinction Rebellion UK tour bus outside Exeter City Council's Paris Street offices

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

World car free day ignored in Exeter as Extinction Rebellion challenges council climate inaction

Protestors gathered outside council offices as CEO Karime Hassan posed for photo with construction company development manager at Princesshay promotion.

The Gorge co-living block classic studio room floorplan

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

First Exeter 'co-living' block comes on stream with rooms at £946pcm+

Even 'affordable' rooms in six storey 133-unit Gladstone Road block would leave many local key workers living below minimum income threshold.

Summerland Street co-living block redevelopment site

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Council paves way for 186-bed 'co-living' block in Summerland Street

Freedom of information request reveals intended scale of development after executive committee takes decision behind closed doors.

Exeter City Futures Exeter Development Fund presentation slide

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter Development Fund: rent extraction, unaffordable housing and gentrification, but not net zero

Exeter City Futures' private debt-driven Liveable Exeter property development financing scheme is under fire from councillors who say it is based on insufficiently-evidenced assumptions and won't meet Exeter's housing needs.

E3 cycle route Chard Road modal filter

COMMENT  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Exeter cycling & walking strategy five years late and counting

County council soft-pedalling on infrastructure plan which city council says will not form part of new Exeter Local Plan despite Department for Transport guidance.

Liveable Exeter community engagement with council development director Ian Collinson

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Property development promotion as community planning participation

If the Liveable Exeter property development scheme and its Exeter Development Fund financing vehicle are already intended to 'anchor and underpin' the new Exeter Local Plan, what will public consultation on the plan decide?

Exeter Article 4 Direction area July 2011 map

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

St James HMO conversion refusal overturned at appeal

Council failed to provide sufficient evidence to support 2012 planning policy introduced to limit impact of student occupation of residential housing stock.

Monkerton masterplan map

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Progressive Group planning enforcement proposal adopted despite public Labour rejection

Newly-published register also reveals council has issued as many planning enforcement notices in the past three months as it has in the past three years.

Exeter City Futures website - vision & mission summary

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

University emissions study confirms Net Zero Exeter plan redundancy

Council retains Exeter City Futures' services despite history of delivery failures and lack of capacity to support defined decarbonisation targets.

Rob Hannaford and Karime Hassan at Exeter City Council's June 2022 strategic scrutiny committee meeting

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Net Zero Exeter accountability under scrutiny

Exeter City Council's response to the climate crisis has so far been characterised by numerous failings. Unfortunately its attitude towards accountability for its actions in this area is also cause for concern.

Greenhouse gas protocol for cities - sources and boundaries of city greenhouse gas emissions (scale)

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter greenhouse gas report disregards hundreds of thousands of tonnes of annual city emissions

Restricted scope of study misrepresents scale of city's impact to produce partial decarbonisation targets while ignoring opportunities to reduce emissions imported by residents, businesses and visitors, guaranteeing net zero failure.

Exeter 2020 net internal migration by age group bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Exeter beset by unaffordable housing, low graduate retention and economically inactive over 50's

Exeter City Council executive ignores key challenges flagged in major council-commissioned employment and skills research report.

Church Road traffic congestions

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Alphington 'enhancements' will not mitigate traffic impact from massive South West Exeter extension

County council manipulates public consultation and allocates just 1% of £55 million grant to pedestrian scheme while spending 75% on new roads and increased road capacity for 3,500 new cars expected on greenfield housing estate.

Exeter Statement of Community Involvement cover

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Council rejects calls for greater community involvement in Exeter planning policy and decisions

Council defends existing approach despite Statement of Community Involvement consultation producing just 17 responses, and won't do more to promote neighbourhood planning despite prospect of enhanced community powers.

Magdalen Road public consultation results option preferences bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

£900,000 to keep Magdalen Road one-way system despite decisive public support for low traffic street

County council misrepresented and omitted key public consultation findings in report and did not publish results until after decision taken in favour of option with only 18% public support. Exeter Observer snapshot survey finds 90%+ motor vehicles passing shops are through traffic.

Exeter City Council 2022 annual meeting 17 May 2022

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Labour councillors appointed to all thirteen city council committee chairs at annual meeting

Council leader falsely claims 'overwhelming majority' voted Labour in Exeter local elections while circumvention of council decision-making scrutiny continues.

TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Kidical Mass Exeter: 'The best day ever'

300 people took part in the first Kidical Mass Exeter family bike ride on Sunday 15 May as part of a global campaign for safe cycling routes for children, young people and families.

Exeter City Council party seat distribution after 2022 local elections

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Greens take three seats from Labour so Progressive Group replaces Conservatives as official opposition

Conservative loss in Topsham among significant vote share changes in 2022 Exeter City Council elections suggesting city's political landscape in flux.

2022-23 band D council tax charges ranges (England)

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Do Exeter Labour election campaign claims stand up to scrutiny? Coda: Council tax

The last part of our 2022 local elections series is a coda examining Exeter Labour's claim that the city has one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country.

2022 Exeter local elections guide graphic

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

2022 Exeter local elections guide

City council elections take place on Thursday 5 May. Our essential guide highlights who's standing where, wards to watch and what the results might look like and mean. We also outline their context and explain when, where and how to vote.

Climate delay discourse typology

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Do Exeter Labour election campaign claims stand up to scrutiny? Part III: Climate & environment

The third in our 2022 local elections series examines Exeter Labour claims about climate crisis leadership, renewable energy, recycling, retrofitting and development standards as well as decisions to scrap council and city decarbonisation goals.

Shops to let on Exeter High Street

ANALYSIS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Do Exeter Labour election campaign claims stand up to scrutiny? Part II: Economy & city centre

The second in our 2022 local elections series examines Exeter Labour claims about the city centre and Exeter's wider economy, including its misrepresentation of content marketing materials as authoritative sources of information about the city.

Exeter Labour manifesto for Exeter City Council 2022 elections - front cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Do Exeter Labour election campaign claims stand up to scrutiny? Part I: Exeter's housing crisis

The first instalment in our 2022 local elections coverage examines Exeter Labour claims related to the housing crisis overtaking the city.

Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan cover edit

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter City Council abandons city 2030 decarbonisation 'ambition'

Unannounced decision to exclude scope 3 emissions constituting around 43% of Exeter's carbon footprint from 'net zero' plans effectively ensures city will not meet its decarbonisation goals.

Vaughan Road Exeter City Living development site

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Why does Exeter City Council evade public scrutiny of Exeter City Living property development decisions?

Significant decisions concerning the council-owned company are being taken in secret despite transparency legislation and assurances when it was created, with governance and scrutiny arrangements also potentially putting the council at risk.

Exeter student house in multiple occupation

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Council consultants confirm 58% of Exeter's university students live in city's residential housing stock

2021-22 university figures suggest there are now more than 4,500 student HMOs in the city, consistent with ONS findings, with number set to surpass Exeter's council housing provision.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Futures secondment decision may be unlawful

Backbench city councillors denied scrutiny call-in powers to challenge controversial decision to send chief executive and senior director to work for private company.

Exeter Ukrainian refugee support hub Conversation Café

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Ukrainian refugee support hub opens in Exeter city centre

Conversation Café pop-up offers information, resources, events and meeting space to help cut through the confusion surrounding the Homes for Ukraine scheme and enable Devon's response to the crisis.

Guildhall shopping centre sale brochure cover

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

£55 million Guildhall shopping centre decision may breach local government transparency rules

Exeter City Council decision to purchase and redevelop shopping centre may be unlawful, ineffective and subject to judicial review, increasing already significant commercial investment risks.

Karime Hassan, Phil Bialyk, Tony Rowe and Paul Thomas at Sandy Park hotel development site

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Decision to send council CEO and director to work for Exeter City Futures is 'disservice to citizens'

City council disregards governance, risk and conflict of interest issues despite cross-party challenges and conflates decarbonisation agenda with property development financing scheme.

Individual overseas ownership of Exeter property titles 2010 to 2021 bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Individual overseas ownership of Exeter property triples in ten years

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

Devon council climate action plan Climate Emergency UK scorecard scores bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter decarbonisation plans found wanting in nationwide council climate action plan study

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

Pennsylvania housing stock in Sylvan Road, Exeter

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Pennsylvania petitioners expose fifteen years of flawed student accommodation policy-making

City council policies based on faulty premises, inaccurate information and miscalculated projections have failed to prevent mass student occupation of Exeter residential housing stock despite the proliferation of Purpose Built Student Accommodation across the city.

Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite increasingly untenable pension fund committee position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and failure to understand sector position and plans.

Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Landmark study by Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sutton Trust and Department for Education finds University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme - block two model view Paul Street elevation

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter City Council approves second Harlequins 'co-living' block, sealing fate of Paul Street

Previously rejected vision will now form basis of 'abysmal' and 'poorly thought through' Liveable Exeter development of 383 'units of accommodation' with increased proportion of substandard studios but reduced economic value to city.

Exeter City Council climate credentials claim in St Sidwells Point development hoarding

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Greens call for evidence-based Exeter carbon budget as city council clings to net zero rhetoric

The Net Zero Exeter plan lacks baseline emissions figures, recognised scope definitions and measurement and reporting frameworks, placing the city's decarbonisation agenda at risk. The opportunity for Exeter to demonstrate genuine climate crisis leadership nevertheless remains.

Clifton Hill sports centre

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Council plans to scrap affordable housing requirement for Clifton Hill sports centre site redevelopment

Council-owned and financed developer cites unpublished report which values council-owned land for student housing despite council decision ruling out this use.

Exeter borough constituency boundary changes initial proposals map

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Proposed Exeter parliamentary constituency changes pit Priory against Pinhoe

City council responds to boundary commission consultation by proposing Conservative East Devon takes marginal Pinhoe and city keeps Priory Labour stronghold instead.

Liveable Exeter Place Board agenda October 2020 redacted

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

City council outsourcing Exeter local government to unaccountable Liveable Exeter Place Board

An Exeter Observer investigation of Liveable Exeter Place Board has found that it is a de facto decision-making and governance body which exercises public functions with the potential to affect everyone who lives and works in Exeter.

Peninsula Transport vision document cover image

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

30 year plan for SW transport outlined in consultation document

Strategic vision places investment in roads ahead of decarbonisation despite acknowledging the region's high car dependency rate.

Bar chart showing 2020 pollution incidents per 10,000km2 for the nine privatised water companies in England

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

South West Water misses pollution targets for tenth year running

Environment Agency says regional company's performance 'drags down the whole sector's reputation' as report places it at bottom of annual assessment league table while company pays out millions in shareholder dividends.

SATURDAY 31 JULY 2021

St Sid's holds double celebration of community centre's 20th anniversary and Sidwella Day

Local residents are invited to an afternoon of live music, good food, heritage tours and garden discovery trail in honour of Sidwella, Exeter's patron saint.

ST SIDWELL'S COMMUNITY CENTRE

Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme illustrative elevation

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Harlequins developer plans to scrap hotel to build second 'co-living' block on shopping centre site

Existing planning approval will be factor in decision to return to earlier, rejected, vision which would mean 378 studios and 'cluster flat' rooms along Paul Street.

New Haven Field in Exeter's Riverside Valley Park

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

River Exe green spaces and heritage harbour site threatened by 'Liveable Exeter' development scheme

Exeter Civic Society and Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors raise alarm at prospect of Exeter City Council development in river valley park and historic canal basin.

Clydesdale, Nash and Birks Grange Village redevelopment illustrative elevations

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

University drops environmental standards for huge student flats development with council approval

University of Exeter and Exeter City Council both ignore own policies in plans to demolish 30 buildings and construct 50,000m2 of new student accommodation, telling us more about their priorities than their climate leadership claims.

Devon Pension Fund fossil fuel holdings

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Devon Pension Fund fossil fuel investment position exposed by Shell and BP AGM votes

Shareholder support for Paris Agreement-compatible goals increases but fails to prevent continuing oil and gas exploration, extraction, production or consumption as experts intensify warnings that emissions reductions goals will be missed.

District heating network diagram

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

South West Exeter district heating network plan abandoned

Property developers refuse to back scheme despite local authorities committing £7.3 million to project to supply 2500 new homes with waste heat from Marsh Barton incinerator, Exeter's largest single source of carbon emissions.

Exeter City Council 2021 election results ballot share percentage by ward

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Did Exeter's local elections results tell a Labour success story?

Exeter Labour lost just one seat in the city council elections and held all seven of its county hall seats, but on closer inspection its performance was more mixed than these headline results imply.

Net Zero Exeter logo

COMMENT  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Is Exeter City Council going to abandon its Net Zero 2030 target?

Review suggests alignment with Devon Carbon Plan, currently aimed at 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050, citing 'technical and financial challenges ahead', although change in policy would require decision by councillors after 6 May local elections.

Interim Devon Carbon Plan consultation responses net zero target date preferences

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Devon Carbon Plan consultation finds majority want net zero by 2030

Devon Climate Emergency Response Group questions whether 2030 'realistic' and suggests 'palatable' compromise while only 13% of consultees support UK government's 2050 target.

Exeter City Council in session at Exeter Guildhall - Inauguration of Lord Mayor

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

High Court rules council meetings must resume in person after local elections

Case seeking judgement to allow local authority meetings to continue remotely when temporary coronavirus regulations expire fails to override requirement for primary legislation.

Electoral Commission ballot box graphic

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

2021 Exeter local elections guide

Elections for Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and the Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner are taking place in Exeter on 6 May. Our essential election guide highlights wards and divisions to watch, changes taking place and how, when and where to vote.

Met Office graph showing 2020 global mean temperature difference from 1850-1900

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

World Meteorological Organization report confirms 'relentless' intensification of climate crisis despite pandemic lockdowns

2020 set to be equal warmest year on record despite cooling La Niña while Internal Energy Agency warns post-pandemic economic stimulus expected to drive second largest annual increase in carbon emissions in history and UK emissions set to overshoot 2030 target by 40%.

Claire Wright

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Independent county councillor Claire Wright stands down

First elected to Ottery St Mary Town Council in 2009, the parliamentary candidate for East Devon in 2015 and 2017 also served on East Devon District Council for four years and Devon County Council for eight years.

Train at Okehampton Station in 2015

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Okehampton to Exeter 'Dartmoor Line' passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport 'Restoring your Railway' funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.

Atmospheric rise in carbon dioxide from the industrial revolution to the present

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Atmospheric concentration of CO2 now 50% above pre-industrial levels

Met Office says 2021 will be first year on record in which symbolic threshold breached for more than a few days as UK prepares to host COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Independent councillor Jemima Moore campaigns in Newtown during the 2019 Exeter local elections

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Door to door campaigning for May local elections to go ahead after all

Government announces relaxation of coronavirus restrictions on election canvassing from next Monday 8 March in step with planned lockdown rule changes.

Devon County Council local authority pension fund fossil fuel investment bar chart

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Report places Devon County Council among UK's top local authority fossil fuel investors

£157 million of Devon Local Government Pension Scheme is invested in companies including Royal Dutch Shell, BP, BHP, Anglo American and ExxonMobil despite local authority climate emergency declarations and carbon reduction commitments.

Exeter polling station

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

May local elections to go ahead despite COVID-19 challenges

Ban on doorstep canvassing and door to door leaflet distribution likely to favour the two major parties on 6 May as postal and proxy voting encouraged in Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Illustration showing how the new building will look when completed

NEWS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Exeter Science Park STEMM 'grow-out building' construction begins

A new specialist centre for fast-growth Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths & Medicine businesses will be completed by November 2021.

Exeter energy recovery facility

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

District heating network planned for new South West Exeter development

Local councils are investing up to £7.3 million in a £23 million project to supply a development of 2500 homes with heat which depends on the Marsh Barton waste incinerator, Exeter's largest single source of carbon emissions.

Climate change mitigation challenges infographic

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

University research consortium launches 'Accelerate to Net Zero' project

The GW4 Alliance of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities has launched a collaborative project aimed at accelerating decarbonisation across South West England and Wales.

Harlequins shopping centre

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

First Liveable Exeter homes are substandard 'warehousing for people' which is student accommodation 'in all but name'

Harlequins shopping centre redevelopment approved by Exeter City Council includes 251 co-living units in seven storey tower block despite widespread opposition from conservation charities and community campaigners who have since appealed to the Secretary of State to call in the decision.

Pedestrians and people waiting at bus stop on Exeter Cowick Street

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Council abandons temporary COVID-19 cycling and walking safety plans in Exeter city centre

Devon County Council cites 'pushback' from traders as schemes on North Street, South Street, Fore Street and Cowick Street are scrapped. Meanwhile temporary changes in Topsham are dropped after 'snap poll'.

Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan proposals vs Exeter territorial emissions vs Exeter carbon footprint bar chart

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Is the 'Net Zero' Exeter plan fit for purpose?

Exeter City Futures' carbon reduction plan ignores over a million tonnes of carbon emissions and massively underestimates the challenges facing the city.

Great Western Hotel beside Exeter St David's railway station

ANALYSIS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Exeter rough sleepers in COVID-19 emergency accommodation face uncertain future

Exeter City Council has yet to confirm whether it will use any of the £2.15m Rough Sleeping Initiative funding it has received since 2018 to keep housing rough sleepers when government emergency accommodation funding runs out.

Cyclists, pedestrians and cars compete for space on Union Road, Exeter, 1 June 2020

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Devon County Council fails to deliver promised COVID-19 cycling and walking infrastructure

Deadline for action on social distancing for safe travel set by county cabinet member passes despite Devon receiving £1.7 million share of government emergency fund.

Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

ANALYSIS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.

Exeter Cathedral and Quay car park top deck

NEWS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Coronavirus halts decision to spend £3.9 million on car park repairs and upgrade

Exeter City Council spending plans will be revisited in June at same time as Net Zero Exeter carbon reduction plan is discussed by Executive.

Pulling Road Pinhoe Exeter zero carbon housing development site plan

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter's first 'zero carbon' housing development includes 96 car parking spaces for 40 homes

Exeter City Council has approved plans to develop land at Pinhoe with a parking ratio of 2.4 cars per household as part of an 'exemplar scheme for future residential development in the city' while accepting that zero carbon construction comes 'at a cost to the provision of affordable housing'.

Cranbrook town centre development site empty plots

NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Cranbrook town centre community building application submitted

Devon County Council is to develop new town centre facilities including a children's centre with public health nursing provision, youth centre with indoor and outdoor recreational spaces and library with small café.

Exeter Princesshay deserted under COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter City Council announces £1.584m April budget shortfall caused by COVID-19 restrictions

Council revenues have fallen dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a £6.357 million capital spending deferment. But financial support from government has so far been limited.

Small retail businesses on Paris Street, Exeter

NEWS  ⁄  ECONOMY & ENTERPRISE

Half of COVID-19 support grants unclaimed by Exeter businesses

Exeter City Council in bottom third of local authorities as only 45% of eligible local businesses claim government coronavirus support money.

2019 parliamentary elections - Devon Conservative vote share change bar chart

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Conservative vote share varies across Devon but still blocks an Independent MP in East Devon

Labour loses vote share in every constituency, but retains Exeter and Plymouth Sutton & Devonport to leave the county position unchanged from 2017.

Exeter election polling station

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Conservatives hold Topsham in Exeter city council by-election

A by-election held on general election day produced an unusually high turnout but a lower Conservative vote share than at the May local elections.

East Devon Independent Claire Wright 2019 general election candidate

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

East Devon Independent Claire Wright set to unite Remain voters in close historic two-way contest

Claire Wright is poised to make history by beating the Tories in East Devon next week. If she does it will be without thanks to the LibDems and Greens, who insisted on standing candidates against her despite the preferences of local party members and the Unite to Remain campaign.

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter climate strikers create human chain around County Hall

Fridays for Future Exeter led a march through the city to form a human chain around County Hall in protest at climate change inaction.

Striking University of Exeter history lecturers Dr Jennifer Farrell and Dr Gemma Clark

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

University of Exeter staff strike over pay, pensions and working conditions

The Exeter branch of the University & College Union (UCU) is taking part in a national eight day strike for fair pay and pensions, including equal pay for female and BAME staff, and against casualisation and increasing workloads.

Exeter Global Climate Strike demonstrator holding placard

ANALYSIS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Exeter youth climate strikers launch Green New Deal for Devon

Fridays For Future Exeter have published a detailed vision of a more equitable future that calls on elected representatives across the county to recognise the climate crisis as a symptom of a dysfunctional political economy.

Exeter Global Climate Strike Bedford Street crowd

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Thousands march in Exeter for global climate strike as millions mobilise worldwide

Fridays for Future Exeter led 3500 people on a climate crisis demonstration through the city backed by dozens of organisations on the eve of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.

Rhian Keyse speaking at Exeter UCU's anti-casualisation campaign launch

NEWS  ⁄  COMMUNITY & SOCIETY

Education union challenges university to address widespread casualisation of teaching staff

Exeter University & College Union (UCU) launched an anti-casualisation campaign on Friday as a prelude to negotiation with the University of Exeter over academic staff contracts.

CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Extinction Rebellion Exeter Wave of Water march

Extinction Rebellion campaigners marched through Exeter city centre led by a samba band and dressed in blue to represent a wave of water, highlighting rising sea levels and the coming global water crisis.

Extinction Rebellion Exeter funeral march climate crisis High Street

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Mock funeral march brings Exeter city centre to a sombre standstill

Extinction Rebellion campaigners brought the gravity of the ecological emergency home to Exeter on Saturday in a funereal procession commemorating wildlife loss caused by climate change.

Dutch living streets woonerf sign

SPECIAL REPORTS  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

We already know what to do about the climate crisis. We must get on with doing it as fast as we can.

Exeter and Devon council leaders must begin rapid regional decarbonisation now. The quickest, cheapest way to cut emissions in Exeter is to deter combustion engines from entering the city. Clean air legislation offers a basis for action.

Molly Scott Cato at the European Parliament

COMMENT  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Is EU membership essential to our ability to deal with the climate emergency?

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, visited Exeter during her re-election campaign to explain why the EU and its Green Group is leading the way on a wide range of progressive policies.

Front elevations of proposed development at Mount Radford Lawn

ANALYSIS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Mount Radford Lawn development proposals conflict with St Leonards community vision

Exeter Deaf Academy hopes to sell a school playing field to developers who plan to build luxury homes. Local residents have other ideas about how best to use the land. A dispute is looming over an historic green space driven by prospective profit from planning gain.

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

NEWS  ⁄  ARTS & CULTURE

Rainbow Trail LGBTQIA+ exhibition queers RAMM for Exeter Pride 2019

A new collaboration between X-Plore Youth Devon, Exeter College LGBTQ+ society, Natalie McGrath of Dreadnought SW and Dr Jana Funke of the University of Exeter explores gender and sexual diversity across time, place and culture by reimagining objects from the RAMM collections.

Exeter City Council city centre wards map

NEWS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Exeter Labour loses local elections in all three city centre wards

Voters in Exeter yesterday elected three new councillors to represent them in the key wards that cover the city centre, with all the city's ruling Exeter Labour group candidates missing out despite the party's confident campaign.

Jemima Moore campaigning in Exeter local elections

ANALYSIS  ⁄  DEMOCRACY & GOVERNANCE

Local resident stands as independent candidate in Exeter elections

Jemima Moore is a 36 year-old part-time primary school teacher and mother of two young children with little political experience. So why has she decided to stand for election to Exeter City Council on 2 May?

Extinction Rebellion climate emergency protesters in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

NEWS  ⁄  CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Extinction Rebellion Exeter stages climate emergency protest

Today around 70 people joined the Exeter branch of Extinction Rebellion on the city's streets to demand urgent action to minimise the risk of catastrophic impacts from climate change.

Exeter St James period housing stock

COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

Historic Exe Bridge traffic

COMMENT  ⁄  TRANSPORT & MOBILITY

Streets are for people, not cars

Cars adversely affect economic output, air quality and wellbeing, take up valuable space when parked and discourage people from walking and cycling when driven. Reducing their use would enhance Exeter's retail and leisure offer, improve public health and attract needed workers to the city.

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