Exmouth needs much more say

PUBLISHED: 14:46 04 October 2008 | UPDATED: 14:42 09 April 2010

It has not been possible, at this stage, to canvas the views of all members of the Exmouth Community Association so these are the views of the management committee of the ECA on the unitary proposal. From our experience of working with the current syst

It has not been possible, at this stage, to canvas the views of all members of the Exmouth Community Association - so these are the views of the management committee of the ECA on the unitary proposal. From our experience of working with the current system of local government and study of the issues, including a meeting in July with senior people from each of the four councils involved, we have two particular concerns about the recent management of Exmouth affairs, which we wish to see corrected in any future organisation of local government: 1. Exmouth needs a much more strategic approach to planning. At present, many proposals put forward and much of the resulting development are piecemeal. They do not reflect a strategic vision for the whole town in a way that integrates all relevant aspects, including economic, social and environmental. The effect is that changes either fail to materialise or those that do take place have unintended consequences and do not maximise potential benefit to the town. 2. Exmouth needs to have a much stronger say in its local affairs. The current town council, which is the only council focusing entirely on Exmouth, has no more than the powers of a parish council. Exmouth has a population of 35,000, expected to rise to 45,000 within 10 years. It is by far the largest town in East Devon, making up well over a quarter of the population, yet it has very little influence on development decisions which significantly affect the local population, its aspirations and needs. There is considerable concern about the lack of opportunities for genuine democratic participation in matters that affect Exmouth under the current arrangements. The view of many residents is that important decisions are taken remotely, without proper regard for the opinions of the community and seemingly based on inadequate appraisal of local conditions and ideas. The two recent exercises on 'Unlocking Exmouth' and the development of the marina are examples of this. Local people want to contribute, but feel that all their local knowledge, concerns for the future and ideas for the positive development of the town are ignored or given scant regard, especially in planning matters. The perception that they are too often ignored has led to cynicism and disengagement on the part of council tax-payers. This seems to fly in the face of government policy that local people should be involved and participate in decisions that affect their neighbourhoods. We consider, therefore, that, when coming to a decision as a result of the consultation process on what to recommend to the Secretary of State, the Boundary Committee should satisfy itself that governance arrangements in any change to unitary will ensure Exmouth has authority and accountability to manage local needs itself, within a properly consultative strategic framework. Roy Pryke, Chairman of Exmouth Community Association.

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