The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan seems not to be going to plan for the team!
Teignbridge, Mid Devon and East Devon District Councils in Feb 2017 teamed up with Exeter City Council to produce a “Greater Exeter Strategic Plan” (GESP). Recently they announced a delay to the ambitious plans which now puts the completion date to around 2022.
It was stated the delay was because of the substantial number of sites coming forward for consideration together with the complexities of the funding gap for infrastructure projects.
Devon councils and the Government have underinvested the roads and rail network in this area except for the passing through traffic for the last 60 years. Only the artery roads of the M5, A38, A30 and A361 were constructed and hardly any improvement to rail services with only “quick fix” solutions to storm events at Cowley Bridge and Dawlish.
Large housing development in Exeter, Exminster and Exmouth in the 1970s was encouraged with new roads promised for Exminster to the centre of Exeter and a dual carriageway to Exmouth. The houses were built but then funding withdrawn!
The consequences of the underinvestment throughout the area, have heavily impacted Exeter now recognised as one of the worst congested cities in the UK.
The plan was to build substantial housing providing a levy which would help fund the urgently needed infrastructure, with extra funding being provided from government in exchange for delivering extra housing numbers over the planned housing numbers
But now there are question marks over the housing numbers, with the Government deciding to calculate the required “build out” numbers for housing rather than each individual authority calculating their own housing needs.
East Devon’s requirement is to build 844 per year. This is under East Devon’s own Local Plan target figure of 950 each year up to 2031.
This week the Devon section of CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) announced they are challenging all of Devon’s Planning Authorities housing requirement figures with a 60-page document by the leading planning consultants Opinion Research Services.
They are also challenging the way the Government arrive at their figures and conclude that:
The overall housing need for Devon produced by the Government standard methodology remains an over estimate.
Their report concludes that far too many homes are being planned and claim that the combined Devon Local Plan Housing Target is overstated by at least 25% with 1500 houses too many each year.
In the case of East Devon, the percentage is an estimated oversupply of 40% of homes required against the Local Plan Target of 950 suggesting a required buildout figure of only 570 homes per year.
There is a massive funding gap for the GESP area infrastructure projects. East Devon’s underfunding gap alone is around £70M just to provide for what is needed for their current plan!
The GESP aspiration was to approach the government with a proposal to build even more houses in the GESP rural areas (as Exeter is nearly full) and to ask for extra funding to pay for the extra infrastructure requirements for Exeter.
On top of road and rail improvements, health, education and social care investment which are also critically underfunded the Council Leaders recently proposed a £20M plus Music Arena to hold 20,000 people to be included in these infrastructure requirements.
However last week the government announced plans to grant 10 cities throughout England extra multimillion funds to assist in Infrastructure projects, unfortunately Exeter is not Included.
So, the Housing numbers are now being questioned and the extra government funding seems not to be forthcoming.
East Devon’s problem of accommodating extra housing
Although in the last 10 years East Devon has outperformed all other Local Authorities except Plymouth to build new houses (8169 units), the GESP proposal hopes to build substantially more in this area.
However East Devon is restricted with 2/3 of East Devon being a special area of designation “Area of Outstanding Natural of Beauty.” where development is strictly controlled.
Therefore, the area of search known as the “Exton to Honiton Arc” is restricted into the small area of East Devon that is not restricted by the AONB. Already there is the developing town of Cranbrook, and Exeter Airport, but this is where the GESP planners propose to develop.
Already the rural communities of Clyst St Mary, Feniton, West Hill, Woodbury and the town of Ottery St Mary have questioned the emerging GESP strategy for even more housing. The very reason why people migrate to this area is its rural nature and beautiful countryside. They claim this will be lost with mass development of the scale that the GESP Planners suggest.
The GESP proposals future for East Devon
• The Authorities’ own estimated build out figures and the Government own figures are questionable and being challenged.
• The massive Infrastructure costs to help deliver extra housing and ease congestion are not being supported by recent Government grants.
• There is only a small area of East Devon that can be developed which is not supported by the local communities.
Is the GESP deliverable, is all this extra housing needed in this area especially this small area of East Devon?
The CPRE report published this week claims:
“The current local plans are planning far too many homes.”