3. Keeping East Devon an outstanding place results and feedback
- 56% are satisfied with our off street car parks, 15% are dissatisfied. This compares to 55% in 2014 who were satisfied.
- 47% are satisfied with planning services (18% are dissatisfied). This compares to 42% in 2014.
- 78% are satisfied with parks, public gardens, play areas and open spaces. This compares to 79% in 2014.
- 83% responded that they do not think that levels of pollution – for example traffic fumes, noise, bathing water, contaminated land are ‘a very big problem’ or ‘a problem at all’. This compares to 82% in 2014.
- 73% do not think that litter, vandalism or graffiti are ‘a very big problem’ or ‘a problem at all’. This compares to 72% in 2014.
- 68% consider that the Council is making good progress towards our aims of using East Devon’s natural landscape and countryside to encourage visitors and tourists. This compares to 62% in 2014.
- 49% consider that the Council is making good progress towards our aim of increasing job opportunities in the west of the district by encouraging businesses to base themselves near the new town of Cranbrook. This compares to 47% in 2014.
- 53% consider that the Council is making good progress towards our aim of making towns better places to live through regeneration. This compares to 49% in 2014.
Comments relating to keeping East Devon an outstanding place
- 81 residents said they would like to see more/ cheaper car parking in off street car parks which would encourage more visitors, increase use of local businesses and stop people parking down side streets. Residents also commented that they would like to see free or cheaper car parking for residents.
Our response: Despite these comments we can show our commitment to supporting our town centre businesses through a number of initiatives. We have sought to provide the right number of off-street car parking spaces at the right locations including opening two new public car parks recently.
We have been agile in our pricing strategy and whilst we always have to bear in mind a need to manage the Council’s assets responsibly, we have not only held our basic tariff at £1 per hour with no increase for six consecutive years; we have worked with town centre business representatives to introduce a number of incentives and off-peak offers specifically designed to encourage people to visit and stay in our town centres.
Most people nowadays are very used to having to pay for town centre car parking and there is no evidence that suggests that a fair and transparent regime of reasonable charges is in any way detrimental to a town centre economy.
Residents who use our car parks regularly are encouraged to consider buying a parking permit that in most cases will work out at well under £3 per week.
- There were 19 comments about on street car parking. This is managed by Devon County Council.
- 18 residents said that the Council needs to take more notice of local people and Town and Parish Councils.
Our response: The Council is always keen to engage with communities on planning matters and consults widely on planning proposals. All the views received are considered and in the vast majority of cases there is agreement between residents and town and parish councils. There are some occasions where there is not agreement by everyone or where planning legislation requires an outcome that the community does not agree with.
The Council is working hard with the communities of East Devon to support them in producing Neighbourhood Plans - these give communities an opportunity to say what they want to see in their community. Once adopted, the Council has to consider the policies in the Neighbourhood Plan when making planning decisions.
In East Devon we have 38 Neighbourhood Plans in production which is one of the highest number for any District Council in the country. This is a clear demonstration that East Devon communities are very keen to be involved in planning and this in turn provides a fantastic opportunity for the Council to support community views and give consideration to these plans in future planning decisions.
- 10 residents said that the Council needs to look at the available infrastructure before allowing new developments.
Our response: The Council has in place an infrastructure delivery plan and this identifies key infrastructure that needs to be delivered to support new development. Financial contributions from developers are made through the Community Infrastructure Levy towards the cost of delivering the right infrastructure. Developers of new homes will always be required to pay towards this.
- 19 residents said that there needs to be an overall tidy of areas (street cleaning, presentation and flowers) and another 14 said there needs to be more grass cutting.
Our response: Our teams are dedicated and we always endeavour to the best we can with the budget and resources available to keep East Devon an outstanding place. We already work with communities to deal with areas which are in need of a particular tidy up and would like to do this more. We will always support community groups which might want help in arranging a community litter pick.
As a Council, East Devon only cuts grass on the land which we own or maintain for others. Most of our grass is cut on a fortnightly basis in the summer. Some areas are left longer to encourage biodiversity or because the area is suitable for less frequent cuts such as a slope.
Grass cutting on the roadside verges is the responsibility of Devon County Council. They have had to reduce their frequency of cutting these verges due to decisions made as part of their budgetary process.
- 12 residents commented that they would like to see their play areas improved.
Our response: We are very pleased that play areas are so valued by residents and because of this we invest heavily in play using monies from Section 106 planning agreements. We also make sure that we take care in consulting the community to help design and improve sites. For example, this year we renovated the Imperial Recreation Ground play area; we also installed a revolutionary expression swing in Honiton.
We know we can still do better and some of our play areas are in need of updating. We are currently working on a play strategy to set a consistently high standard for all our play sites.
It is important to note too that not all play areas in East Devon are managed by the Council and many are owned or leased by town and parish councils, community groups, residents’ organisations or developers.
- 29 residents commented that they would like to see more enforcement of littering rules and more litter bins.
Our response: We have put in place Big Belly bins to improve capacity and de-clutter seafront areas. We keep a close eye on littering issues and have an enforcement team that we can send out to problem areas and we are going to put this type of enforcement into Exmouth in the coming weeks.
- There were 13 comments about speeding vehicles; this is not something we deal with as a district council.
- There were 11 comments which said there should be more dog fouling bins and another 10 which said there should be a crackdown on dog fouling.
Our response: Whenever our residents tell us about a specific problem we investigate and use targeted enforcement where appropriate to help deal with the issue.
- 27 residents commented that there are some major transport issues across the district.
Our response: The Council is working closely with Devon County Council to deliver road improvement schemes in the district including the A30 Honiton to Devonshire Inn Highway Improvement Scheme and the Dinan Way extension in Exmouth. We are also working closely with them and the developers on the delivery of the Axminster Relief Road.
We are working hard to improve rail and bus services in the district including increasing the frequency of train services through the provision of a passing loop to allow more trains to use the line at the same time.
- 22 residents commented that the Council should regenerate other towns such as Sidmouth, Axminster and Honiton.
Our response: The Council welcome the interest from communities in further regeneration. Important improvements and investments have happened and continue to happen in Exmouth and Seaton, the first two regeneration towns. The Council continues to work with Exmouth on regeneration projects following on from the Strand improvements, Premier Inn development and the ongoing replacement of Mamhead Slipway.
With the completion and successful operation of Seaton Jurassic the Council has decided to move its attention to Axminster town centre as the next location for regeneration engagement. At the same time, EDDC is working in partnership with Sidmouth Town Council to begin the renewal of Port Royal, the more run down area of Sidmouth at the eastern end of the seafront. Within the limitations of its resources EDDC is committed to a continuing involvement with its towns to bring about improvement and investment.
- 16 residents said that there should be more quality shops rather than charity shops and cafes.
There are limitations to the extent that the Council can control or influence the finer detail of the types of shop front businesses that populate our high streets and town centres. However, we are able to support a variety of initiatives that promote high street improvement and diversity of the shopping and leisure experience that they offer.
The investment by EDDC and County Council in the Strand plaza development in Exmouth has encouraged new and high quality shops, food and drink alongside established traders. Seaton has experienced many more visitors with the opening of Seaton Jurassic and we hope that this will have a positive effect on local shopping as well.
- 17 residents commented included that the Council should not just focus on Cranbrook regarding jobs as other towns need jobs too but others (10) commented that Cranbrook was just houses.
Our response: The Council is committed to providing jobs across the whole district and this is clear in the newly adopted East Devon Local Plan which aims to provide one job for each new home built. Through the plan we have allocated employment land in the towns of Axminster, Exmouth, Honiton, Ottery St Mary, Seaton and Sidmouth as well as Cranbrook. We have also adopted policies to support and encourage rural businesses.
The Council owns and actively manages business units across the district that generate local jobs. We have recently secured funding to detail the practicalities of extending our Honiton business centre and making more office units available to local businesses.
We also encourage both home grown business development through business advice services and promote inward investment such as the recently commenced build of a logistics centre for Lidl which will create over 400 jobs.
- 33 residents commented that there should not be building in rural areas/ANOB/greenfields.
As set out in the Council Plan, the Council is committed to protecting everything that makes East Devon such an outstanding place. In order to do this the East Devon Local Plan puts in place policies that protect the areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and rural areas from inappropriate development. There will of course still be circumstances where development is necessary to support a rural business or provide housing needed by a rural community but in such circumstances, planning decisions made by Council Members will always look to minimise the impact on the countryside through careful design and landscaping.
As in the previous surveys, the controversial areas of the Council’s work such as planning, regeneration and development is by far the most significant issue for residents. However, there was an increase of 5% in satisfaction with planning services to 47%.
East Devon is a combination of the highest quality of coast and countryside close to a growing city and wider economic area. Stewardship of our environment alongside responding to the pressures and opportunities of economic and population growth is the balance that the Council is required to manage. Little wonder then that planning, regeneration and development are matters of keen interest, concern and controversy locally.
The Council will continue to consult formally and communicate with our communities to ensure that people are aware of our own development plans and the plans of developers, businesses and local residents across the district.