Securing better infrastructure and tackling problems with sewage discharges are among the priorities for two candidates vying for the new Exmouth and Exeter East seat in next month’s election.

Conservative candidate David Reed, a former Royal Marine, and independent Dan Wilson, an Exmouth-based town and district councillor, acknowledged that housing schemes are built in the area too often without sufficient infrastructure, such as schools and GP surgeries, to support the expanding population.

“One area I want to focus on is overdevelopment, as we are building quite haphazardly – with East Devon District Council and Exeter City Council building lots of new housing, but there doesn’t seem to be any joined-up thinking in terms of delivering infrastructure at the same time,” Mr Reed told Radio Exe’s Devoncast podcast.

“So while I don’t want to tread on the toes of councillors, who do a good job in their own space, I just want to make sure that there is proper oversight with all the layers of government – and ensure we can bring in government money if needs be, so we can deliver the right kind of homes for the right people in the right area.”

Conservative candidate David Reed.Conservative candidate David Reed. (Image: Conservatives)

Asked whether his party’s national policy was partly to blame for the situation, given that there are housing targets but not ones for infrastructure, Mr Reed said the issue he heard “constantly” on the doorsteps is that different political parties in different councils “push in their own direction”.

“So for me I want to do the maximum I can do as a local MP, bringing those councillors together with Devon County Council and bringing in government money as well, as it is only with that joined-up thinking.”

Cllr Wilson, who serves on East Devon District Council’s planning committee, said communities often question where services would be for new housing developments.

“It’s a really big issue, but it isn’t down to councils,” he told the same podcast.

“It’s the government that gives quotas for housing but not infrastructure, so while I have tremendous sympathy for residents who say the roads or local health services can’t cope with more people using them, that isn’t a reason for us to reject a housing development.”

He said social housing is the topic he receives most emails about.

Dan Wilson, independent candidate for Exmouth and East Exeter.Dan Wilson, independent candidate for Exmouth and East Exeter. (Image: Dan Wilson)

“I get told that housing isn’t fit for purpose as the resident has a disability or is caring for someone, it’s a real problem,” he said.

“Labour is talking about building towns rather than housing developments, which is the right way forward, but with Cranbrook, it was such a mess, creating a town with no heart and soul.

“It was so problematic for the people who lived there, and so I’m sceptical that the next government won’t make the same mistakes.”

Both candidates are concerned about sewage discharges in the area.

Mr Reed said the full extent of the problem is now known, and that if he is elected, he would want to make sure that regulator Ofwat “has the teeth to bite down on water companies”.

He continued: “I want to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible. South West Water are responsible and we pay our bills so they need to sort it out.

“There is money for new infrastructure in Exmouth, but it needs to be brought forward so that the company can show local people it is willing to invest right now so we can see a reduction in storm overflows.”

Cllr Wilson said tackling sewage is “a massive thing” for him, especially given his children play on Exmouth beach and his father’s ashes were scattered at Orcombe Point.

“I’ve called on Susan Davy, the chief executive of South West Water, to resign as she has been there for a long time and every year there’s supposedly a new plan with the right team in place, but it’s nonsense,” he said.

“If they move in the right direction, I’ll be with them, and if they’re honest, I’ll be their champion, but they’ve not done well to now, although as MP I’d be happy to draw a line in the sand and move forward positively. But if that isn’t the case then I’d be their biggest critic as they’re letting the public down.”

He added that local campaign groups, such as Escape – which stands for End Sewage Convoys and Poollution Exmouth – and resident Jo Bateman, who has pursued a county court action against the firm, had been fundamental in highlighting issues and that he wanted to “help champion” that kind of action to bring about change.

On other issues, both candidates supported increased defence spending towards the 2.5 per cent of GDP target now pledged by both the Conservatives and Labour.

Mr Reed said his priorities also included supporting farmers and focusing on making police more visible in communities.

Cllr Wilson said as an independent, he has no party affiliation, and so would be able to priorities issues for the local community without being pressured to have a stance in a certain direction because of national party policy.

The full interview can be heard on Radio Exe’s Devoncast podcast, which is available for partners to use in full or in part.

The full list of candidates in Exmouth and Exeter East are: Paul Arnott (Lib Dem), Mark Baldwin (Climate Party), Helen Dallimore (Lab), Olly Davey (Green), Peter Faithfull (Ind), David Reed (Con), Garry Sutherland (Reform UK), Daniel Wilson (Ind).