Consultation on a huge new dossier that will shape Exeter’s future has begun – and people are being urged to have their say.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
Exeter City Council has launched the first round of public consultation on a new Local Plan for the city which sets out to provide a vision for the city’s future up to 2040.
The Local Plan will need to address a raft of important planning issues including how the city responds to the climate emergency, where new homes are built and how new jobs are provided.
The Plan will also look at how to protect and enhance the city’s historic and natural environments, how high streets and communities can continue to thrive and how everyone gets about the city.
Cllr Emma Morse, Lead Councillor for City Development, said: “I’m excited to see launch of the consultation. The Local Plan lies at the heart of the planning system and will guide the development of housing, the economy, community facilities, and infrastructure in Exeter for the next twenty years.
“It will also set out clear messages for how we combat climate change and improve our environment. It’s vital that local people, businesses, community groups and stakeholders have their say in shaping the Local Plan and Statement of Community Involvement, so that the documents reflect what you want our city to look like and how you want to engage with the planning process in order to achieve that.”
Each council is required to have an up to date Local Plan to guide development so that it meets the needs of the community and the local area.
Exeter’s current plans (the Core Strategy and Local Plan First Review) are becoming older and as along with neighbouring partners, they are no longer progressing the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, the city needs a new Local Plan.
The new Local Plan will eventually replace the existing plans and will cover the years between 2020 and 2040, and will allow the council, the community and other organisations to make the most of the opportunities in Exeter, tackle our key issues and help ensure a thriving city going forward.
The first stage of the Local Plan review on the issues – with a second stage around site options for development and specific policies– to follow in the future.
Exeter City Council have declared a Climate Emergency and pledged to work towards creating a carbon neutral city by 2030. They have adopted the Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan which sets out what Exeter will need to put in place in order to be net zero carbon by 2030.
The new Local Plan will include policies and proposals that contribute to meeting this challenging ambition and to make the most of the opportunities of a net zero carbon city.
Health and wellbeing
Generally, Exeter is a healthy city with high levels of walking and cycling, large areas of green space and access to a range of health facilities. However, people living in its more disadvantaged areas can have comparatively poor health, lower literacy and may experience frailty earlier. Traffic has led to increases in air pollution and noise in some areas. Crime and anti-social behaviour can be a concern. Housing quality can also significantly affect health.
The new Local Plan will play a part in improving health and wellbeing by supporting ambitions to achieve increases in physical activity to get 50 per cent of people walking or cycling to work, improving air quality and providing quality housing.
The Government requires around 630 new homes in Exeter each year and Covid-19 has underlined just how much good quality housing is needed
The new Local Plan will need to help address the shortage of affordable homes in the city and consider how best to provide the good quality accommodation we all need. Young adults, families, older people, those with disabilities, students and gypsies and travellers all have specific housing needs.
Economy and jobs
The city is at the heart of the Greater Exeter area and has one of the fastest growing economies in the UK. Whilst Exeter has like all cites been significantly impacted by Covid-19, predictions are that it will be one of the quickest to bounce back. There is a strong ambition to grow the economy with a focus on innovative business sectors, making the most of a skilled workforce.
The new Local Plan needs to support the economy and green growth by identifying the employment sites and infrastructure needed. This will help to increase prosperity and wellbeing.
The future of high streets
A vibrant and prosperous city centre with complementary bustling neighbourhood shopping areas is central to the success of the city. However, traditional high streets are under pressure through the growth of online shopping, a trend accelerated by Covid-19, and so we need to re-think how they function.
Leisure, cultural attractions and the night-time economy are likely to play an increasingly important role in attracting people to our high streets and will help support our offer for tourists.
The new Local Plan will support the high street as it evolves and continues to play a central part in our lives.
High quality places and design
The quality of the places in which we live and work is fundamental for so many reasons, including to support our health and well-being, attract investment and generate pride in our city. Development offers opportunities to create high quality places that respond to Exeter’s distinct characteristics, reflect local culture and integrate with existing communities, promoting social cohesion and healthy lifestyles.
The Local Plan must ensure that development is located in the right place and provides well-designed buildings and spaces.
Historic environment and culture
Exeter’s rich historic environment is part of what makes the city unique and special and helps to shape the city’s culture today. It improves our communities’ quality of life and pride in the city and helps to support our economic prosperity.
New development inevitably raises challenges for the historic environment, but the new Local Plan provides an opportunity for us to protect and enhance our historic assets whilst celebrating and exploring the culture of the city and our communities as they evolve.
The city enjoys a high quality natural environment, with valley and city parks, public rights of way and the Exe Estuary. The hills to the north and north-west of the city give Exeter a distinctive character while the city also contains a rich variety of wildlife habitats.
The new Local Plan will need to manage development pressures on our local environment to provide benefits for landscape character, wildlife, flood risk and air quality and to help us to combat climate change.
Sustainable transport and communication
The way people travel will be vital to the success of Exeter. It will be central to achieving net zero carbon, growing prosperity, healthy lifestyles and improvements to our environment. In future, travel won’t just be about whether we walk or drive – digital communications will also be key.
The new Local Plan will need to ensure that Exeter is resilient to changes in travel, supporting innovative development in the right places show-casing real options and fresh approaches to transport.
Infrastructure and community facilities
Communities rely on local infrastructure to function and prosper; transport infrastructure helps us to get around, doctors surgeries provide our health care, schools educate our young people, digital infrastructure helps us to communicate and greenspace and leisure facilities provide us with the opportunity to relax.
The new Local Plan will be vital to identify the infrastructure which we need, ensuring it is provided in the right way, at the right time and in the right place.
The pattern and quality of future development in Exeter
A key role for the new Local Plan will be to set out a sustainable pattern of development for Exeter which will help to deal with the issues we have identified and achieve the vision for the city.
Planning for development proactively will mean we can steer it to appropriate locations where impacts can be managed and where it will have the most significant benefit.
The current planning documents include a strategy for meeting our development needs in terms of housing, jobs, shopping, community facilities and infrastructure, but this is being reviewed to make sure the approach will be appropriate for the future.
The key strands of the current approach to meeting the city’s development needs are:
· Focus on the city centre, existing centres and previously developed land, including the regeneration of the Grecian Quarter (around Sidwell Street and the bus station) and the Water Lane area (around the canal in the Haven Banks area)
· Provide for additional development in sustainable urban extensions on the edges of the city
· Steer development away from the hills to the north and north west – the important landscape areas for the city
Some of this development strategy will need to be looked at again to reflect that times have changed, as there are more limited opportunities for large scale urban extensions now given that the developments at Newcourt and Monkerton are nearly complete.
The council is also now looking at the key regeneration benefits which development on brownfield sites can provide. This evolving situation has led the Council to start a housing delivery programme called Liveable Exeter, which will create new homes for the city through a series of eight, high quality development sites.
On the back of this work, Exeter has been recognised as a ‘Garden Community’ which brings support from Government to make sure that the city grows in a sustainable way with a real focus on high quality development working well for local communities.
This approach will play a key part in steering the pattern and quality of development for the city in future.
Some potential ideas which could be used to shape a future development strategy for Exeter are:
· Redevelopment of brownfield land in the city
· Higher density development in the city centre and close by
· Smaller developments on the edge of the city
· Steering development away from sensitive environmental areas such as the Exe Estuary and hills to the north and north west of the city
· Locating development to maximise walking and cycling and to make use of public transport
· Build distinctive development with local identity n Ensure well-designed, vibrant places with a mixture of uses
· Support healthy lifestyles n Provide a variety of high quality and flexible homes
· Deliver appropriately designed infrastructure when it’s needed
· Provide developments for local employment, education and skills
· Enhance the natural and historic environment
· Provide green infrastructure such parks and open space
· Ensure that development will produce ‘net zero’ carbon emissions
· Deliver high quality active travel and low carbon transport
· Make sure that development is resilient to future change
Exeter has a vision for growth as a connected city region consisting of thriving linked communities set within an exceptional environmental setting. This clear vision represents a commitment to strengthen neighbourhoods; create new communities; invest in sustainable transport; and deliver the infrastructure needed to attract investment and improve quality of life.
Exeter aims to be recognised as a leading sustainable city and global leader in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of climate change and urbanisation. The plan strives to make Exeter the most active and accessible city in England.
The vision has seven key elements:
· An innovative and analytical city
· A healthy and inclusive city
· The most active city in the UK
· Accessible world class education
· A liveable and connected city
· A leading sustainable city
What happens next?
The issues consultation is the first step in preparing the new Local Plan. The council will then use the responses to the consultation alongside evidence on a range of topics to shape a draft of the new Local Plan which will be consulted on in 2022.
After that, a final draft document will be published for comment before it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for Examination. A Planning Inspector will use a series of Examination discussions to decide whether the plan needs any changes and then if it can be adopted by the Council
To get involved in the consultations, local residents, businesses, community groups and statutory consultees are encouraged to:
- Visit https://exeter.gov.uk/localplan/ and https://exeter.gov.uk/sci/ where the Local Plan Issues Consultation Document and draft Statement of Community Involvement can be viewed and responded to online;
- Find out more information by attending public exhibitions to be held on: Thursday 30 September from 1pm to 7pm at Exeter Central Library, Rougemont Room, Castle Street, Exeter, EX4 3PQ; and Wednesday 13 October from 1pm to 7pm at the Guildhall, 203 High Street, Exeter, EX4 3EB.
The consultation documents can also be viewed during opening hours at Exeter City Council’s Customer Service Centre in the Civic Centre (Paris Street, Exeter, EX1 1JN) and Exeter Central Library (Castle Street, Exeter, EX4 3PQ).
For more information, or to respond to the consultations in a different way from online, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01392 265080. Please also use these contacts to be kept informed of progress on the new Local Plan without responding to the current consultations.
The consultations run until November 15. Further rounds of public consultation on the new Local Plan are planned for 2022 and 2023, before it is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for Examination.