Five councils in the Greater Exeter region have unveiled their overall vision for the area over the next 20 years in a public consultation. East Devon, Mid Devon, Exeter, Teignbridge District councils and Devon County Council are working together to draw up a strategic approach to planning in the area, which will become the formal statutory document to guide where new homes, employment land and infrastructure should go up to 2040.
Each of the participating councils will keep their own Local Plans, but it is hoped that the more strategic approach being taken in the GESP will provide the ‘joined up thinking’ needed to ensure that new development can be focused where it is needed.
A major public consultation is underway, which will run until 10 April and allow people to register their views on the Plan. A ‘call for sites’ is also running simultaneously with the public consultation, which will allow interested parties to put forward potential development sites.
Adrian Welsh, Forward Planning team leader at Mid Devon District Council said:
“It’s a great opportunity to get involved in the process right at the beginning. it’s a start of a process where the four authorities will work closely together on joint planning. The aim is to get a strategic plan together which will set a context for local plans in the future.”
The GESP is one of many regional strategic plans that councils are bringing forward in response to the Government’s drive to ‘get Britain building’, as well as dramatic changes in the structures of local government. Indeed, there have been concerns expressed locally that the GESP represents the first steps towards some sort of amalgamation of the councils.
Liberal Councillor Jenny Roach who represents Silverton expressed fears that Mid Devon District Council would be ceding powers. She said: “We’re looking like we could be ceding power to this planning partnership, and I know people will shake their heads and say no, but there are several points which worry me.”
Councillor Polly Colthorpe, Conservative ward member for Way and Chair of Mid Devon District Council’s Planning Committee, expressed concerns regarding the name. She said:
“The name of this outfit is misleading and I do think that it would be helpful if it weren’t called the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, because it makes the whole of the rest of the districts which are involved subordinate to Exeter. None of those districts will want that and they don’t see it like that and I think it would be helpful if you could perhaps consider giving it another title.”