“New Cranbrook” and creeping unitisation worry Greater Exeter councillors

Owl says: Read with the post below Owl thinks there will be more than one “New Cranbrook” in the Greater Exeter area!

Consultation events held in Devon this week shed light on the creation of a major strategic blueprint, which could lead to new settlements on the same scale as Cranbrook.

Mid Devon, East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter City Council, in partnership with Devon County Council, are teaming up to create a Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) which focuses on the creation of jobs and housing until 2040.

Hundreds visited Exeter’s Guildhall today to see early Greater Exeter plans between 2pm and 8pm. Similar consultations were held at Phoenix House, Tiverton yesterday and at Mackarness Hall, Honiton on Wednesday, March 8.

Andrew Robbins, city development manager for Exeter, said: “We need to provide more houses for the population and more jobs. What we’re looking to do is plan for the next 20 years, with Exeter City Council working with its neighbours because we see the influence of Exeter outside its boundaries. We’re looking at the best places for new housing and the best places for new jobs.

“For example, the new settlement at Cranbrook has been developed in recent years. One of the things we’re thinking of is ‘do we need another settlement outside of the city.'”

“What we want to do is get people involved in the process at what we call the issues stage. This is the absolute beginning of the process and its asking people for their ideas for how they see the region developing, before consulting on a draft plan at the beginning of 2018.”

Cllr Jeremy Christophers, Leader of Teignbridge said: “The creation of a strategic plan across a wider geography responds to how people actually live their lives. Combining housing options with job opportunities and providing the proper transport will support our ambition for local people to live the lives they wish for. As councils, we need to work together to deliver better results for the future – clearly, this is the way forward.”

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon said: “It has been clear for some time that there was a significant gap left with the demise of the Devon Structure Plan and without wishing to re-invent the wheel, we should be establishing a strategic plan for our Greater Exeter area which has input from Exeter, Mid Devon, Teignbridge and ourselves, alongside the County Council. We are the epi-centre of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and we need to ensure we have a central, aligned, significant role to play as we take our well-established partnership forward.”

Cllr Pete Edwards, Leader of Exeter City said: “Every weekday 37,000 people commute into Exeter and 11,000 people head out of Exeter. These volumes are second only to Cambridge and it is imperative that we address housing, transport and infrastructure in a joined-up way to respond to this reality.”

Cllr Clive Eginton, Leader of Mid Devon, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to reflect on how our residents and businesses live their lives across council administrative boundaries and to start embedding our shared aspiration for a successful future in plans for the Greater Exeter area.”

Cllr John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, said: “The emerging relationship between the four local authorities in preparing a single Strategic Plan for the area is a very positive step and will help the planning system to work efficiently to boost the supply of housing and growth required. We are pleased and well-placed to be part of this collaborative way of working, which will improve and streamline our planning system.”

However the plans have raised fears that councils are “sleepwalking” into becoming unitary authorities. Liberal Councillor Jenny Roach who represents Silverton expressed fears that Mid Devon District Council would be ceding powers.

She said: “We’re looking like we could be ceding power to this planning partnership, and I know people will shake their heads and say no, but there are several points which worry me.

“Exeter needs land and you can imagine where I sit in my ward, Exeter City Council could be looking at developing the swathe of land that is between Silverton and Exeter and similarly between Thorverton and Newton St Cyres. If you look at the East Devon side there are huge estates marching across that land, so this worries me.

“It worries me that it’s being done by degree and almost by stealth. When we went to the public to talk about the sort of governance the district wanted, they didn’t like the cabinet, but unfortunately we didn’t get the 3000 signatures we needed in that period of time.

“There are a tremendous amount of people who were not happy with the governance of this authority as it is now, they don’t like the cabinet system, and it is the cabinet system that is sleepwalking us into a unitary authority. I’ve seen this happen before and I would really like to know that the very least we would do is have a state of the district debate on this Greater Strategic Exeter Plan.”

An online consultation form can be found at http://www.gesp.org.uk/issues”