East Devon District Council pulls out of Greater Exeter Strategic Plan

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan area. Picture: LDRS

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan area. Picture: LDRS - Credit: Archant

East Devon District Council has officially withdrawn from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP).

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 GESP 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.

At Thursday night’s meeting, 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 Heart of the South West (local enterprise partnership), we were party to an award of £5m to the Exeter Science Park, so the argument of ‘no GESP, no cash’, was never true.

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“We have a near six-year land supply at the moment and government about to put a rocket up 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 threat about housing numbers.”

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 them 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 a 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.”

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 them?”

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.”