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Mid Devon has joined East Devon in recommending withdrawing from what was due to be a major blueprint for development across the Greater Exeter region.
The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan is set to provide the overall spatial strategy and level of housing and employment land required across Exeter, East Devon, Mid Devon and Teignbridge in the period to 2040.
But while Exeter and Teignbridge councils had recommended going out to consultation on the draft policies and site options document, East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee have proposed instead pulling out of GESP, with their full council to make a decision on August 20.
And going against the recommendations of officers, Mid Devon’s Cabinet last Thursday voted in favour of recommending to a full council meeting on August 26 that Mid Devon withdraws from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.
Putting forward his call to withdrawn from the process, Cllr Luke Taylor said: “As we understand what our involvement will actually be, there are grave concerns. There could be a significant number of more houses in Mid Devon than what we are legally required to build and you only have to look at some of the sites in Exeter, many of the sites are largely unachievable – such as Marsh Barton and Sowton – and seem to be plucked out of thin air.
“What this means for Mid Devon is those sites are unachievable, then many of the sites in Mid Devon will go ahead and we will end up with more housing and I have serious concerns over the number.
“And with the Mid Devon sites, there is not a significant amount of employment and commercial opportunity, but what we are doing is creating more of a suburb of Exeter and it becomes Exeter centric rather than being about all of the districts.”
He said that he ‘could not support GESP as it stands’, and recommended that cabinet believes the GESP presents Mid Devon with an unacceptable risk of housing numbers not supported by any housing needs, and that they recommended to full council for to withdraw from the GESP.
Cllr Alex White added: “Not to have key requirements of jobs and employment development within the centres is a huge concern. In Crediton, there could be 4,000 houses but no mention of how we are going to create jobs. This plan just funnels people as quickly as possible from Crediton to Exeter when we want to see the wealth shared. The plan misses a huge trick.”
Cllr Ashley Wilce said that it was a plan for a ‘Greater Exeter’ and not the ‘Greater Exeter Geographical area’, while Cllr Frank Letch said that the other authorities were being asked to solve Exeter’s problem of not being able to provide enough sites to meet their housing need, and added: “People are worried we are picking up the litter from Exeter’s problems.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Bob Deed, said that the 39 sites included in the site’s option are only indicative at this point, but have obviously generated a considerable amount of interest, with sites to the south of Crediton, around Newton St Cyres, Culm Garden Village, Hartnoll Farm to the east of Tiverton, and south of Sampford Peverell among the options.
He added: “I would hope the Mid Devon will not be seen as a local authority that cannot work with other authorities and any decision generally comes with advantages and disadvantage. As leader of this council I’m extremely keen to ensure that any decision on GESP does not have an exceptionally negative effect on the district.”
The cabinet voted by seven votes to one to recommend to full council that Mid Devon does withdrawn from GESP, brings forward the review of the Local Plan, and starts to discuss with partners a joint framework for planning and infrastructure, but that the allocations and targets for housing remain with the Local Plan.
The GESP document outlines policies for how development should take place, as well as 39 sites where major housing or employment land could be allocated, although not all of the sites would have been taken forward to the final version of the GESP.