EDDC press release on GESP decision – Statement from Leader Paul Arnott

21 August 2020 eastdevon.gov.uk 

Council votes in favour of recommendation from its Strategic Planning Committee

At its Full Council meeting last night (Thursday 20st August), East Devon District Council agreed to withdraw from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP), following a recommendation from the Strategic Planning Committee on 23rd July.

The Council approved the Committee’s recommendation to:

  • Notify our district partners that we are withdrawing from the GESP;
  • In that letter we offer assurance that we will fulfil our duty to co-operate in an ongoing and positive partnership;
  • That this council immediately begins the process to renew our local plan and that the Strategic Planning Committee meets as soon as possible to explore and define the processes involved.

A recorded vote was taken and 33 councillors voted in favour, with 22 against and 1 abstention.

Today the Council’s Leader, Cllr Paul Arnott, will write as requested by the Council to the leaders of Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge councils – the proposed partners in GESP – to outline the East Devon councillors’ reasons for wishing to depart. He said he will also stress East Devon’s ongoing commitment to positive partnership working with them, as happens in the Enterprise Zone and the Exeter Science Park currently.

Cllr Arnott said:

I will also say that although the government’s new white paper – “Planning for the Future” – proposes to remove the “duty to co-operate” between neighbour councils, East Devon will continue to observe the spirit of this duty in any case.

The council’s work now refocuses immediately on responding to the consultation document for the white paper. We will also now direct all the energy and resources used by GESP work within its planning team to an immediate review of our own Local Plan. Discussions on the processes for that will be urgent priorities in the next raft of Strategic Planning committee meetings.

It is a central commitment of this council to work for sustainable economic growth and attainable homes and where this involves cross-district collaboration we will embrace this enthusiastically.

Sadly, the GESP envelope placed the cart before the horse. What was needed was a genuine consultation on what our residents want and need in terms of transport infrastructure, green homes, economic initiatives and so on in a post-pandemic Devon.

The consultation that had been prepared paid lip service to these but was mainly an alarming push to “consult” on vast new tracts of green fields going under concrete with promises of infrastructure gains that were plainly mere aspirations. Yet again, many councillors described GESP as a “developer’s charter”.

Crucially, of the 60 members of East Devon Council just 22 were prepared to back staying in the GESP. It is to be hoped that the 22 can now move on to work with the great majority of democratically elected councillors who wish to defend our district against the government’s ill-conceived ideas for the Planning system and to help us re-make a better and more sustainable Local Plan.”

GESP – How your Councillors voted by Ward

These are the voting results as Owl recorded them last night, they have been cross-checked but it is always possible, with a long list, for inadvertent errors to creep in – if you spot any please let Owl know.

To avoid confusion about what voting for or against the motion put to Council means, Owl has used the term “Stay” to indicate those voting to stay in GESP and “Leave” for those voting to leave.

33 Councillors voted to leave and 22 Councillors voted to stay in GESP; there was one abstention, three Councillors sent their apologies and one was absent.

Essentially those voting to stay, were all the Conservatives present and all the self-styled “Independent Group”. These are the remainder of Ben Ingham’s group of “Independents” who did not join the Majority Group or form Cranbrook Voice. The other unaligned “Independent” from the Ingham Group, Cllr Peter Faithfull, also voted to stay in the GESP.


Councillor Ian Hall

Councillor Sarah Jackson

Councillor Andrew Moulding





Beer and Branscombe

Councillor Geoff Pook




Councillor Sarah Chamberlain

Councillor Christopher Pepper

Councillor Eleanor Rylance



—– Absent


Budleigh and Raleigh

Councillor Alan Dent

Councillor Paul Jarvis

Councillor Tom Wright





Clyst Valley

Councillor Mike Howe



Coly Valley

Councillor Paul Arnott

Councillor Helen Parr





Councillor Kevin Blakey

Councillor Kim Bloxham

Councillor Sam Hawkins





Dunkeswell and Otterhead

Councillor Colin Brown

Councillor David Key




Exe Valley

Councillor Fabian King



Exmouth Brixington

Councillor Fred Caygill

Councillor Maddy Chapman

Councillor Andrew Colman





Exmouth Halsdon

Councillor Megan Armstrong

Councillor Paul Millar

Councillor Tony Woodward





Exmouth Littleham

Councillor Bruce De Saram

Councillor Nick Hookway

Councillor Chris Wright





Exmouth Town

Councillor Olly Davey

Councillor Joe Whibley

Councillor Eileen Wragg





Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh

Councillor Steve Gazzard

Councillor Brenda Taylor





Councillor Susie Bond



Honiton St. Michael’s

Councillor Mike Allen

Councillor Luke Jeffery

Councillor Phil Twiss





Honiton St. Paul’s

Councillor Dean Barrow

Councillor Tony McCollum





Councillor Ian Chubb



Newton Poppleford and Harpford

Councillor Val Ranger



Ottery St Mary

Councillor Peter Faithfull

Councillor Vicky Johns

Councillor Geoff Pratt






Councillor Marcus Hartnell

Councillor Dan Ledger

Councillor Jack Rowland





Sidmouth Rural

Councillor John Loudoun



Sidmouth Sidford

Councillor Stuart Hughes

Councillor Dawn Manley

Councillor Marianne Rixson





Sidmouth Town

Councillor Denise Bickley

Councillor Cathy Gardner




Tale Vale

Councillor Philip Skinner




Councillor Ian Thomas



West Hill and Aylesbeare

Councillor Jess Bailey



Whimple and Rockbeare

Councillor Kathy McLauchlan



Woodbury and Lympstone

Councillor Ben Ingham

Councillor Geoff Jung





Councillor Paul Hayward





DevonLive on East Devon withdraws from GESP

East Devon votes to withdraw from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

East Devon District Council has officially withdrawn from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.

The council on Thursday night voted by 33 votes to 22 to inform their partners that they would no longer be part of the major blueprint for development for the region.

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan was due to provide the overall 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 will now no longer be part of the process, and Mid Devon’s council when they meet on Wednesday are recommended to make the same decision.

East Devon’s strategic planning committee at the end of July had spent four hours debating the GESP before making their recommendation to full council, but at Thursday night’s meeting, chairman of the council, Cllr Cathy Gardner, only allowed the eight councillors who had ‘called the minute for debate’ to speak, saying that all the points had been made and across the two meetings, everyone had a chance to speak.

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the council, put forward his proposal that East Devon should withdraw from GESP, continue to co-operate with neighbouring councils, and that East Devon begins the process to renew the Local Plan.

In a speech in which he said he was pre-empting some of the arguments that would be made against pulling out, Cllr Arnott said: “They may say that it is only democratic that people should have their say on the consultation document, yet this is the first time that GESP has ever been discussed at full council.

“They may say we will receive no infrastructure funding without GESP, but through the HoftSW, we were party to an award of £5m to the Exeter Science Park, so the argument of ‘no GESP, no cash’, was never true.

“We have a near six year land supply at the moment and the government is about to put a rocket up the timescales for local plans, which is good, and we’ll do it within 18-20 months and make it happen, so there is no need to fret about housing numbers. There may be sour group attacks, but if any of them want to grandstand then press on, but if they keep shooting themselves in the foot, they won’t have enough toes left to count their votes.”

Cllr Ben Ingham, the former leader of the council, said that by leading GESP, East Devon can control its own destiny, but going it alone will make their vulnerable. He added: “It has taken us years to cooperate to gain the attention and financial support of government. When we lobby, they listen and when we plan together, they are interested.”

Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservative Group, added: “The GESP is just draft and not all proposals will be adopted. A joint plan will give us a clear plan for the area for accessing funding and a coordinated approach is the only way forward for the long term benefit of Devon residents.”

Cllr Alan Dent added: “We should support it in principle, despite the way it has been conceived. It is a mistake to reject the whole concept until a proper consultation takes place, like throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” while Cllr Philip Skinner said that we have to deal with the housing numbers come what may, so surely the best way to work cohesively with partners and go forward with the GESP,.

And Cllr Helen Parr added: “The leader of the Democratic Alliance does not want to consult residents. He doesn’t want residents to have their say on a draft plan he has every confidence they don’t like. The whole point is that we could put in our views and so could the members of the public. How can we make the plan reflect the public views if we don’t ask their ask them?”

After the eight councillors who had called for the minute from the strategic planning committee to be debated has spoken, Cllr Gardner called an end to the debate and moved to the vote, much to the displeasure of Cllr Ian Thomas, a former leader of the council, who when he cast his vote, said that he wanted it noted that he was strongly disappointed that as a former leader, he wasn’t allowed to speak on what he said will potentially prove ‘the most ill-informed and irresponsible decision’.

When it had been discussed at the strategic planning committee, Cllr Eleanor Rylance had proposed that East Devon withdraw from GESP, saying that the plan was not fit to be consulted on now or at any point.

She added: “They say a camel is a horse designed by committee and this is what this is. We are being asked to send a camel out to consultation, and instead of putting forward this monstrosity of a dead camel, we should withdraw from GESP. This plan is not a fit plan and there is nothing about we should pass to consultation at this point or any point.

“This has self-contradictory polices clearly written by different people and it is unreasonable to put this before anyone. We are living in a different world from when this was drawn up and our world has changed and I am bemused that we are sticking doggedly to a timetable drawn up last year.

“This defies common sense, this does nothing for East Devon, and we should not be a member of GESP going forward. This document is all about volume house building, is dangerously flawed and contradictory.”

Councillors on Thursday voted by 33 votes to 22, with one abstention, for East Devon to withdraw from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.

The council will now immediately begin the process to renewing its local plan and the strategic planning committee will meets as soon as possible to explore and define the processes involved.

Mid Devon District Council meets on Wednesday night and they are recommended to withdraw from GESP as well.

Cleaning the Augean stable – Last night’s statements

From a correspondent:

The Leader of the Council, Paul Arnott, grasps the importance of the public’s perception of ethical standards expected from those working and elected in the public sector and, surely, all would agree that the 7 Nolan principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are an aim we should all try to aspire to in every walk of life.

Owl believes this is what was said under Agenda Item 6 last night:

Cllr Cathy Gardner, Chair EDDC 

“Some of you will know that I became involved in local politics because I was concerned about probity in planning. That was in 2013, at the time of the Graham Brown affair. I quickly got to know neighbours and others in East Devon who shared my concerns, and more. Now that I am Chair of EDDC it is a vital part of my role to safeguard the reputation of this Council and rid ourselves of that legacy. In order to do that I believe we must take positive steps to improve public perception of how we operate, especially when it comes to aspects of planning. We must ensure that our processes are totally robust and our behaviour is beyond reproach. I will hand over to the Leader, Cllr Paul Arnott who will explain….” 

Cllr Paul Arnott, Leader EDDC 

“This morning, the Chair called a meeting with the CEO and the Monitoring Officer, and invited the Chair of Planning, the Deputy Leader and me. 

We had a positive and wide-ranging discussion on how we can make sure that even as busy members and officers we adhere to the commitment to the Nolan Principles at all times. There is a difference between lip service and implementation, and all councils with duties in Planning must make sure that implementation is its watchword.  

This discussion had been triggered now for urgent action by a number of factors.  

From the recent past, it is clear that the failure of this council to go ahead with the Task and Finish Forum commissioned to look into the Brown issue -mentioned by the Chair – and into the role and influence of the former East Devon Business Forum, was a serious error of judgement. It gave the impression – whatever the case – that members and the public had no legitimate right to understand these unhappy matters. There had been a chance to clean the stable – instead the broom was snapped and the stable door locked. It was business as usual. 

However, the timing now has been mainly triggered by the need to look to the immediate future, and the time for action is here as the council, like the nation, enters some of the most challenging times for Planning in our history. We cannot fulfil our duty to the Nolan principles when the public is still unsure about the role of undue influence in our Planning Choices, our site identification. Or where their community’s S106 money has got to. 

Imminently, we re-engage with our Local Plan process. There were serious and unanswered questions about a number of sites which came in under the bar at the eleventh hour in the current plan in 2015, and members have repeated the concerns about the sporadic undeclared interests of some members in this council and their alliance with large-scale landowners in relation to the draft consultation for the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. 

We cannot make a clean start on our new plan-making process without absolute clarity and commitment to the highest standards of member and officer probity. Soon, in addition, we will have to respond to the government’s consultation on Planning changes. This council will have an obligation to include in that the risks – nationally acknowledged – of local and national undue influence, corruption some might say, in that too. As we know, the Sec of State whose name is on the draft consultation helped in the cause of the international pornographer, Richmond Desmond, who hoped avoid millions of pound in CIL. He is but one of a legion of developer donors to the Tory party. That, I am afraid to say, Conservative members and friends, is your party. Well we are not having that here. 

Therefore, the Chair will host another meeting next Thursday on this topic with those gathered today, and arising from that I will write as Leader to the Chair and the CEO advising that we will have an agenda item to discuss how we structure our immediate work on this topic at the next available Cabinet.” 


Opposition grows to housing plan as part of Tipton school relocation


Responses to the plan for a new primary school in Ottery and an accompanying housing development continue to mount up, with objections vastly outweighing those in favour.


The consultation on the proposed replacement for Tipton Primary School ends on Sunday, August 23, after being extended by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

The proposal, by Devon County Council (DCC), is for a 210-pupil primary school on land it owns opposite Barrack Farm, along with a development of up to 150 homes which would fund the £7.2million school.

DCC argues that the existing school is in a flood risk area and has to be relocated; that there is no suitable site in the village, and that there is a need for extra primary school places in Ottery St Mary.

So far 122 objections have been submitted, and 14 expressions of support.

The over-riding message from respondents is that the proposed site was designated in the Ottery and West Hill Neighbourhood Plan as being suitable for community and education use, but protected from housing, and that the plan for new homes should be scrapped.

Most objectors say Ottery St Mary already has too much new housing and no more is needed. Concerns are expressed about extra traffic on already busy roads, and additional pressure on health and leisure services. The over-riding feeling among objectors is that the housing development is unwelcome. Some say it is not needed to fund the new school, as the cost of rebuilding Tipton Primary should come from the Government’s School Building Fund.

Objectors to the housing scheme also dispute the suitability of the land for development. Devon County Council and its building consultants state that the part of the site earmarked for construction is in a low flood risk area. But many respondents say building on it could cause problems with water run-off, and increase the risk of flooding to lower lying properties on Cadhay Lane and the Thorne Farm estate.

Some respondents argue that Tipton Primary School should remain in the village, saying its loss will be disastrous for the community. But many agree that its current buildings are not fit for purpose, and believe all attempts to keep it in Tipton have already been explored.

In response to the comments made during the consultation, a spokesman for Devon County Council said:

“We are well aware of the very complex issues surrounding this application and the difficult decision that planners will have to make.

“However there is a clear and demonstrable need for the flood-threatened Tipton St John primary school to be relocated.

“There is also a clear and demonstrable need for a new primary school in Ottery St Mary where there are currently around 100 more children of primary school age than the local school can accommodate.

“Our application also provides that almost one third of the proposed new houses should be affordable which would be of significant community benefit to the town.

“We are also proposing that a large part of the site is set aside for public green space with more land being managed for ecological benefit.

“The agreed plan for the area allocates land for education and community use and it is our contention that all of these benefits should be taken into account in deciding the application.”

Ottery Town Council will discuss its response to the application on Thursday, September 3, with the final decision to be made by EDDC.

A Correspondent’s view of last night’s debate including the Statement from Chairman and Leader


“It was reassuring that the recommendation by the Strategic Planning Committee to Council to withdraw from the GESP was carried by 33 votes to 22 with one abstention at the Council’s Virtual meeting last night and it is hoped that Mid Devon District Council will follow this lead and also withdraw next week. 

EDDC’s live streaming on Youtube is welcome as it gives the public an insight into the world of local politics and an opportunity to listen to the characters and qualities of those who have been elected to represent the people of East Devon.

The Leader of the Council, Paul Arnott, grasps the importance of the public’s perception of ethical standards expected from those working and elected in the public sector and, surely, all would agree that the 7 Nolan principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership are an aim we should all try to aspire to in every walk of life.

For the ordinary residents of East Devon, GESP has seemed opaque (even secretive) and any public consultation would have been unlikely to show the public’s widespread views because lack of transparency has left people in the dark and precluded and consequently very few would have felt confident to make representations on GESP – leaving only local government officers, members, local business people, landowners and developers to represent their opinions, which may have proved somewhat biased.

Last night saw a chameleon-like speaker (who changes colours regularly) bleating incessantly, while others pontificated desperately trying to reverse the withdrawal from the GESP recommended by the new Strategic Planning Committee, by scaremongering and threatening Westminster intervention and unitary status, but the public perception is that they would all do well to re-read the 7 Nolan principles and endeavour to follow them as a first step to representing the people of East Devon.”

[Owl intends to publish more on the Chairman’s and Leader’s statement – working on the transcript]

RIP GESP – Owl’s summary of last night’s debate

Debate on this item started around 40 minutes into the meeting with the recorded vote starting around 1hr 8 mins.


The EDDC coalition of Democratic Alliance (East Devon Alliance, Libdem, Greens, Independents) and Independent Progressive Councillors has only a narrow majority. It does not impose a “whip” on its members. Every vote is therefore a potential cliffhanger. For example, in this vote one Libdem abstained.

Discipline, on the other hand, is the one thing at which the Conservative Party excels. It is their great strength but also their weakness. It makes the party inward looking and slow to pick up on changes in mood not just in the party but in the community. Pursuing the party line blinds to arguments.

As soon as it was revealed, at the start of last night’s meeting, that three Conservatives had sent their apologies (later, another failed to show) the die was cast, the game was over.

And it showed when it got to their lacklustre performance in the debate. For the first time they looked, and sounded, defeated.

Council Leader, Cllr Paul Arnott explained that the Government White Paper proposed to tear up the duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities. But under his administration, if the decision was taken to pull out from GESP, EDDC would continue to cooperate. He laid out a strategy to start immediately to revise the Local Plan and prepare to meet the White Paper proposals whilst making a strong consultation response to counter them. EDDC, he said, was in a strong position with a six year land supply.

In contrast, it appears that the Conservative councillors who spoke have not yet grasped the significance of what their Government is planning to do, nor what the GESP is all about. We heard the astonishing suggestion from both “Build,build, build” Cllr Helen Parr and Cllr Philip Skinner that the GESP was the best way to preserve the beauty of East Devon! Our “Chameleon” Cllr Ben Ingam painted GESP as delivering some Nirvana that Owl obviously failed to spot when reading the documents. 

As Chairman, Cathy Gardner, pointed out, more than four hours of debate had been held in the Strategic Planning Committee when, Cllr Dan Ledger, its Chairman, called every EDDC Councillor who wished to speak before going into the Committee session. There was also a significant contribution from the public.

The Chairman had asked that points be kept short and to concentrate on changes that had happened since the earlier debate. After about 30 minutes, and when it became apparent that Councillors were going over old ground and repeating arguments, she called the vote.

The recorded vote was carried 33 for 22 against one formal abstention (Libdem)

Three Conservative Councillors sent in their apologies in advance: Cllrs Allen, Hartnell and Twiss, and one, Cllr Pepper, failed to show..

Owl will produce a post in due course recording the result of the vote in each ward.  

Student flats U-turn at Exeter ambulance station site

A coincidence but a very prophetic one – Exeter needs to take a different direction – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

Plans for the redevelopment of the former ambulance station in Exeter will now see a purpose-built high-quality co-living development rather than student flats provided.

The latest proposals for the redevelopment of the Gladstone Road have been drawn up following in-depth discussions with Exeter City Council planners over many months.

The original scheme from the Watkin Jones Group would have seen the existing buildings on Gladstone Road demolished and replaced with a five storey student flats block of 154 bedspaces in a mixture of studios and cluster flats – 37 studios and 117 cluster rooms.

But those plans have now been revised and will instead see 134 co-living studios provided on the site.

Iain Smith, Planning Director for Watkin Jones, said: “We know that Exeter City Council has identified that co-living developments such as this will provide much-needed housing to help retain graduates in the city, helping it meet its ambitions for employment and productivity growth.

“We have been working closely with the council’s planning team for many months to bring forward proposals to help the city meet its ambitions and have incorporated a number of design changes following those discussions.

“The proposed scheme has been completely redesigned to reduce scale and massing. The introduction of pitched roofs means the building sits very comfortably within the immediate neighbourhood. We have also achieved larger room sizes for the 134 co-living studios, each of which will accommodate a double bed, kitchenette, bathroom, study area and casual seating within a 20 sq. m room – larger than the average co-living studio in other UK cities.

“The Gladstone Road co-living development provides high-quality managed accommodation for independent living with ground-floor communal areas including a large multi-station kitchen and dining area, a fully equipped laundry, a dedicated games room, computer room and lounge area.

“Tenants will be able to walk, cycle or catch a bus to their place of employment, whether it is in the city centre, the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, the Met Office or Exeter Science Park, for example.

“The location is also ideal for residents to be able to take advantage of the city’s major leisure, entertainment, and retail offerings.

“Our proposal will also, unlike purpose-built student accommodation, contribute directly to the city by way of council tax which will be paid via the building’s operator.

“Besides the immediate benefits to the local area and the city as a whole, the sale of the site will also release funds to the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

“This development will provide high-quality accommodation in the heart of the city, helping the council achieve its ambition of balanced and sustainable communities in Exeter, while retaining graduates in key fields such as digital and climate change.”

Subject to planning permission, it is hoped that the accommodation will welcome its first new residents in 2022.

Exeter City Council planners will determine the fate of the application at a later date.

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has previously confirmed that the Exeter ambulance station in Gladstone Road is being sold with the sale said to be ‘progressing’ and that they are in the process of identifying a suitable alternative site in Exeter.

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