How to give a flavour of last night’s momentous four hour virtual Strategic Planning Committee deftly chaired by Cllr Dan Ledger?
The meeting fell very obviously into three parts each with a different perspective.
First came a significant number of contributions from the public. Almost all represented communities directly affected by the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) and made passionate speeches opposing it. No member of the public supported it.
This was followed by a short presentation on GESP from Ed Freeman, Service Lead Planning Strategy and Development. In Owl’s view this dwelt rather heavily on procedure which came under heavy and sustained attack from councillors during the ensuing debate.
The Chairman then allowed all Councillors present who wished to speak to do so. This took something like one and half hours.
With a few exceptions all these contributions were well argued criticisms of the GESP papers and the GESP process to date. Councillors found inconsistencies, contradictions and weaknesses in many of the draft policies and proposals outlined in 1,000 pages of documentation. Many referred to the secrecy with which the process had been conducted to date and felt that this was not a proposal they felt comfortable putting out to public consultation. The documents contain no options and have the appearance of a “fait accompli”.
One notable exception was “build, build, build” Cllr Helen Parr who argued strongly that public consultation was the way forward and that EDDC should increase its staffing support for GESP.
Finally, the Committee meeting commenced at 1hr 43mins (for those interested in looking at the youtube action replay- see below).
In Owl’s view the core of the committee meeting was taken up by (long winded) Conservative members, many of whom had had influential roles to play during the gestation of GESP, trying to come to terms/bluff their way out of the predicament they now find themselves in, particularly with their constituents (all the usual suspects). Amazing how a process shrouded in secrecy can be justified and portrayed as open and transparent.
About the forth speaker was Cllr Mike Howe (previous chair of the development management committee). He proposed a compromise way forward which was to press the pause button, discuss what was wrong with the GESP, flag these up and discuss them with other GESP partners, then go out to consultation (Owl’s interpretation of a complex proposal covering nine agenda items). After a lot of talking he proposed a formal motion, seconded by Cllr Mike Allen.
Cllr Eleanor Rylance then indicated that there would be an alternative motion tabled to recommend withdrawing from the GESP (the one eventually agreed), but the rules require that the motions must be discussed in the order in which they are tabled.
Conservative Cllr Andrew Moulding then proposed an amendment that the meeting be adjourned (to enable councillors time to spell out their concerns). This was seconded by Cllr Philip Skinner.
This motion and amendment were described by Council Leader Paul Arnott later as “fudges”
As already reported the adjournment amendment was defeated by 9 to votes to 4 and Cllr Howe’s “kick the can down the road” motion was defeated by 10 votes to 4.
The Committee then voted by 8 to 4 (1 abstention) to recommend to full council that EDDC notifies its neighbouring councils that it is withdrawing from the GESP whilst retaining full co-operation. The recommendation is also made that EDDC immediately commences to progress its own Local Plan. This then trumped the reaming items on the agenda.
The successful motion was proposed by Cllr. Eleanor Rylance and seconded by Cllr Paul Arnott.
Owl’s strong recommendation is to watch Cllr Paul Arnott’s summing up speech which start at 3Hrs 46mins into the youtube action replay.