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.”