Local correspondence on GESP conducted in the Exmouth Journal

Owl’s attention has been drawn to some particularly interesting letters concerning local planning matters in this week’s edition of the Exmouth Journal:  GESP and Goodmore’s Farm. This post concentrates on GESP.

Under the page banner:

“Haven’t we had our fair share?”

From Nicola Daniel, Budleigh Salterton:

I thank the editor of the Journal for a comprehensive summary of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) in last week’s Journal (August 5) following my letter of the previous week.

I also thank Councillor Skinner for his comprehensive outline of his views on GESP.

After all, he is probably the East Devon District Council councillor who has recently been a key player and has the most knowledge of the plan as he has attended many GESP meetings on behalf of EDDC. My worry is that there has been no transparency and community involvement from the start of this plan.

The first consultation was a fait accompli as there was an assumption that GESP would decide on the high level strategic planning policy for the area – major developments – and local plans would deal with smaller scale developments.

It then asked for landowners to submit land in excess of 500 houses. No surprise that the sites poured in.

There were no options then for any alternatives and there are no options now in the latest consultation.

Surely there are better ways to incorporate housing into neighbourhoods than very large developments?

But residents were never asked. We know that we need housing but not as in the GESP way. He is obviously happy that East Devon will take the lion’s share of the housing needs of Exeter and its environs.

Built on grade 1 agricultural land, haven’t we had Skypark and Cranbrook with an estimated final total of 20,000 people, the second largest town in East Devon and one of the largest in Devon?

Haven’t we in East Devon taken our fair share already?

And what about the many of us who spent hours writing and consulting on the 17 made EDDC Neighbourhood Plans and those still struggling?

Have we wasted our time? Well yes, ‘Neighbourhood Plans are able to support the strategic development needs set out in the Local Plan and GESP’.

Followed by

CIIr Eileen Wragg, Exmouth Town Ward

Concerns raised over GESP

Clearly, Cllr Phillip Skinner is feeling rattled to have responded to my column of July 29, (Opinion. August 5) and in what I felt was such an insulting and undignified manner.

His views are not shared by the majority administration at East Devon District Council, who share my concerns, and the concerns of members of Mid Devon District Council (MDDC).

Skinner states that he is appalled by my lack of knowledge, and that the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) would be far from overriding our own Local Plan. Firstly, we were told by a senior planning officer that the GESP would carry more weight than our own Local Plan.

This is endorsed by a report by MDDC recently which states its concern regarding their emerging Local Plan: “After it is adopted, GESP will then supersede it, and that strategic site allocations and housing supply targets will have been determined for us by GESP.” Perhaps Cllr Skinner should acquaint himself with these facts, in addition to the landowners who have come forward.

Undeniably, there are people who are in dire need of housing, and who will probably never be homeowners, and who will have to rely on landlords, who would undoubtedly purchase many of the proposed properties.

Regarding Cllr Skinner’s invitation to discuss the GESP with him, I visited him, at his request, at one of his homes earlier this year, and, having listened at great length to his plans for future development for East Devon, I have decided not to enter into further discussion with him, so will decline his invitation to do so, as I would not like to compromise my position as chair of EDDC’s planning committee.

I will continue to stick to my commitment in representing my constituents and doing what I was elected to do, which is what I believe to be in the best interests of the residents of Exmouth and East Devon.

Backstory: Owl has pieced together the origins of this correspondence.

It starts with Eileen Wragg writing an “Opinion” article entitled “Aim of pulling out of GESP is to save our countryside” in 29  July edition of the Journal (already posted by owl). This seems to have prompted a first letter from Nicola Daniel printed the following week under the banner headline:

We will benefit from this decision

I am very disappointed and indeed. surprised, that the Journal of July 29, has only one reference to what is a historic decision for Exmouth and its surroundings.

The decision by East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) politically balanced strategic planning committee to recommend to the main council to pull out of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) will affect us all to our great benefit.

EDDC was asked to consult the public on a document which would thrust a great proportion of the 53,260 planned homes to be built in Exeter and Its environs in East Devon.

The only place that this scheme was mentioned was on the opinion page by Eileen Wragg. a Liberal Democrat politician. The front page was devoted to a 34-home small scale development in
Exmouth.

Although this may be highly controversial, very small fry in comparison.

Nicola Daniel

Underneath was printed: Editor’s note. Further details about the possible implications, if the full council at EDDC adopt the recommendation of strategic planning committee, can be seen on page 24 [of the Journal]

This was followed by the Philip Skinner letter Eileen Wragg, above, was responding to.

Proposals form basis for debate

Writing as the East Devon District Council (EDDC) Conservative Group lead on Strategic Planning. I am responding to an article published in last week’s Journal quoting Cllr Eileen Wragg, for who I have a lot of respect; well that was until I read the opinion article quoting ClIr Wragg regarding the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP).

I am appalled at Cllr Wragg’s lack of knowledge regarding the GESP process, given she has been a district councillor for more years than me and I’ve been one for over 21 years!

I feel the article needs a balancing view as detailed in the following point by point commentary.

1. Landowners put forward land for consideration for future development as part of a process led by the district council in a ‘call for sites.

This is well before anybody can even starts to assemble a long term strategic plan. (in the case of the GESP to 2040).

As representatives of local authorities, we all need to understand who would be prepared to engage in the process.

Far from it being a fait accompli as stated by Cllr Wragg. It is simply the basis of discussion and debate, which goes out to consultation to the private sector the general public and any other interested parties to ‘have their say’.

The current leadership of EDDC appears to oppose this process.

2. far from GESP overriding Local Plans, it looks to very much engage with the district Local Plan moving forward and takes consideration of the plan to enhance and deliver a strong combined plan, engaging with the other neighbouring authorities, including the ability to deliver infrastructure funding.

3. ‘Who would it be built for anyway’? I’m lost by this comment from Cllr Wragg.

I would suggest probably for the many people who are in dire need of housing.

I would have thought Cllr Wragg would have understood this, as we have a housing issue across the district, which if left as it is will grow, leading to further deprivation and poverty, hence the key wording ‘strategic planning’.

We have a duty to provide homes and opportunity for our people; that’s our job!

4. EDDC has not pulled out of GESP. At this stage it Is a recommendation from the strategic planning committee to the EDDC full council meeting on August 20. Full council will make the final decision.

I am not able to cover all the points in this letter due to the complexities of the GESP, but would be more than happy to engage with Cllr Wragg in a formal discussion on a one-to-one basis, either through your paper or any other media channel as it is vital to ensure a balanced and accurate view is presented for residents to be clear on what is being proposed in their name, but not in their best interest.

Cllr Philip Skinner, EDDC Conservative Group lead on Strategic Planning.

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