Call for residents to unite to prove that people power matters

PLans

The first draft of the Local Plan has been released recently - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dear readers, in our final week before Christmas, Councillors in Exmouth and across East Devon District are faced with two hugely important meetings. First up is a public meeting to consider the first working draft of the Local Plan presented by officers which will determine our policies for development such as setting targets for affordable housing and environmental protection. These need strengthening urgently if we are to build homes that local people can afford to live in. We also can't merely pay lip service to the climate emergency - strong policies to protect our natural environment is vital. This brings me on neatly to the second meeting, which is taking place on the day this edition of the Journal hits newsstands, and will determine the fate of the Goodmores Farm development which has disgraced local residents in the area, many of whom have used this newspaper's letters page to voice their major concerns which I share.
 
These are serious and wide-ranging, from access via Marley Road and flooding risks related to the development, to the scandalous low number of housing which will be built as 'affordable', meaning that it will fail to fulfill local need and instead provide second home ownership and buy-to-let opportunities for people who, while I do not begrudge them their success in property investment, do not need this land as much as residents I support in my ward. This country like all others only has a limited amount of land, and it is beholden on us to use that for public good.
 
I am not against a development on Goodmores Farm in principle, but my position is that building on precious greenfield land should only happen if it fulfils a genuine social purpose in its housing and infrastructure. Why build otherwise? With the Dinan Way extension on ice, I am concerned that commercial units at the top end of the site have the potential to cause major traffic issues. Likewise, the primary school fulfils no actual defined need - the County Council confirmed that school intake numbers have reduced. Compounding that is the separate issue of residents reporting to me that Dinan Way is often being used as a race track - traffic calming measures and pedestrian crossings need to be agreed. Both the commercial units and the school has reduced the number of affordable homes on the site which I find really disappointing. I ask myself, could I have stopped it getting this far? I have done everything I can to object to it, but sadly in 2014 - when I was away from Exmouth at university before I was elected - the principles of this development were agreed by the then Planning Committee and that cannot be reversed. All I can do is try to haggle over the detail.
 
The Goodmores case study shows that our current developer-led model fails the citizens of our nation. Housebuilders, such as Persimmon whose former boss tried to award himself with a £1 billion bonus (yes, that's billion!), have for far too long had a licence to print money and failed to tighten their enormous profit margins to provide some social good.
 
I am currently working with a small group of concerned local residents to establish a residents association for the Dinan Way area, truly led by the residents and attended by councillors. I came up with the name of DARA - Dinan Area Residents Association because it rhymes with TARA (The Avenues Residents Association), which has been superb in organising itself to oppose the planning application on the Devoncourt which has now been withdrawn. People power matters. I would also like to work with local residents to establish a residents association for the community around Hulham Road and other roads affected by the traffic issues there - we could call that HARA (Hulham Area Residents Association).

If you want to be involved in either, please get in touch by phone or email - pmillar@eastdevon.gov.uk or 01395 741096.