“Plans for a new country park serving the 2,500 homes to be built on the edge of Exeter are being cut back, it has been claimed.
The 70-hectare park (173 acres) in the area of the new homes around the Devon Hotel is being dropped by Teignbridge District Council in favour of one that is much smaller, says local county councillor Alan Connett.
Cllr Connett says he has uncovered the council’s plan for a park less than two-thirds the size of the original plan, at 39 hectares (96 acres).
He said: “Teignbridge’s own Local Plan, which sets out how the district will develop over the next 20 years, promises a ‘ridge top park of approximately 70 hectares’. “However, we see yet again how the council promises the earth and then quietly changes the plan.”
In a confidential report going to Teignbridge Council’s Executive committee on Tuesday, October 2, Mr Connett said it was understood the ruling Conservative councillors would be asked to back a new, smaller countryside park for the South West of Exeter development.
Cllr Connett, a Liberal Democrat, said: “Teignbridge now wants to concentrate on a country park that is over a third smaller than it promised residents. “Much of the development at South West Exeter is, in fact, in the parish of Exminster, which will see an extra 2,000 houses within the community, and just 500 ‘over the border’ in Exeter.
“The ridge top park is seen as an essential part of the development not only to provide open space for the residents who will live in the new homes but also to take pressure off the Exe Estuary and reduce the number of visitors.
“This is another example of the planning system promising one thing but delivering less than that promise.
It was the council that put forward a country park of approximately 70 hectares but now, in a secret meeting not open to the Press or the public, and without any consultation, it plans to renege on that promise.
“This is why local people lose faith in the planning system and don’t believe councils when they say good quality community benefits will be gained from large scale housing developments.
“Of course, a park of 96 acres will still be a big space to walk dogs, enjoy picnics and family time together, but that is not the point. “The park will be part of the community for ever more, we hope, and it’s already being downsized.
“As Exeter and Teignbridge continue to grow in the years to come, future generations will come to regret that the Park was not the promised 70 hectares.
“Also, as a local councillor I am now gagged and prevented from saying more about what I have uncovered because the council has ensured all this is being discussed in private, in secret session.”
“Teignbridge says it is an ‘open and transparent’ council, but yet again we see it is anything but that. “It prefers to do its business and cut back on its promises in a private meeting which the public are not allowed to attend.”
A spokesman for Teignbridge Council said Teignbridge adopted its Local Plan in 2014 and at the time the Plan’s independent Inspector noted that the Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace allocation at South West Exeter was sufficient to address the impacts planned development, as well as possible needs in the future.
He said: “The same year, a masterplan for South West Exeter was publicly consulted on and adopted by the Council.
“It explained that 36 hectares of the 70 hectare allocation were needed to accommodate planned development and that the allocation of the larger area therefore provided longer term flexibility.
“The additional provision to the total of 70 hectares indicated was put in there to provide greater flexibility for the countryside park to expand in the future.
“In all cases the land areas being talked about are significantly larger than Dawlish countryside park.”
Cllr Humphrey Clemens, Teignbridge’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Housing and Planning, said: “In line with council procedure, Cllr Connett has had the opportunity to raise any questions in advance of the Executive and I welcome the opportunity to have an open discussion with him during the meeting.”