Blueprint for thousands of new homes in Exeter and East Devon gets timetable revamp

A new timetable for a major strategic blueprint for development around East Devon and Exeter has been published – and it is a further year behind schedule.

Mid Devon, East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter city councils, in partnership with Devon County Council, are teaming up to create the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP).

This formal statutory document will provide the overall spatial strategy, level of housing, and creation of jobs and employment land to be provided up to 2040.

The original timetable for the GESP sought for the plan to be adopted the plan by June 2020.

However, it was delayed in 2018 after East Devon’s Strategic Planning Committee unanimously rejected the original document.

A new timetable was then put forward and signed off by the four councils in February, which would have seen draft policies and site options consulted on this summer with an April 2022 adoption target.

But, following May’s elections, which saw a change of administration running Teignbridge, East Devon and Mid Devon councils, and a change of leadership on Exeter City Council, the preparation of the plan was put on hold.

This was so that the new council leaders could meet and discuss a preferred way forward, including an updated description of the plan and a new timetable.

That timetable has now been agreed and the councils are being asked to decide on the new scope and timetable for the GESP.

This will see draft options come forward next summer and an April 2023 target date for adoption.

The revised timetable is:

June 2020: Draft Policies and Site Options – A document containing the proposed strategic policies for comment, together with a number of potential strategic site options. There will be more options than will eventually be contained in the GESP, giving communities and others the opportunity to respond in the light of a wide range of alternative sites.

Nov 2020: Full Draft Plan – The full draft will contain revised policies, taking account of the consultation and any further work undertaken. More controversially, it will have narrowed down the strategic allocations to the final list, and seek further comments on those. The ‘rejected’ options will no longer be within the plan.

Feb 2022: Proposed Submission – The form of the plan which the council wishes to submit, based on the full draft, but taking account of any comments received to the draft.

July 2022: Submit Plan – The plan and all its evidence is sent to the Planning Inspectorate and the examination process starts.

September 2022: Examine Plan – An Inspector leads an examination into the plan through a series of hearings. The focus is on whether the plan is ‘sound’.

April 2023: Adopt Plan – The Plan can only be adopted with a positive recommendation from the Inspector with any Main Modifications proposed by them.

East Devon District Council’s service lead has told the authority’s Strategic Planning Committee in a report: “The proposed scope and timetable are considered to be the best approach to deliver the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan and members’ endorsement of this approach is needed to ensure that work on the GESP can move forward.

“The Greater Exeter area geography reflects economic, housing and transport patterns.

“Coordinated planning and infrastructure provision will be enhanced to the wider benefit of councils taking part.”

He said that the GESP would allocate Strategic sites of 500-plus homes as well as strategic employment sites, with comprehensive policies setting out infrastructure and planning requirements for the sites.

Local Plan reviews that are taking place at the same time would be responsible for allocating smaller sites for development.

They would also not need to contain any further policies on the garden communities and strategic sites.

The service lead adds: “This would be the quickest way to deliver the full suite of policies for the delivery of strategic allocations and enable their delivery and gives greatest clarity to communities as early as possible.”

The committee meets tomorrow (Tuesday, October 22).

Where is the Greater Exeter area?

Greater Exeter is the area covered by East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge district councils (excluding Dartmoor National Park).

What is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan trying to achieve?

By working together across local authority boundaries, it is seeking to develop a plan which responds to how people live in the area. The purpose of preparing the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan is to:

  • Have a joined-up vision and aspirations for the area;
  • Meet the area’s housing needs in the right locations;
  • Secure economic growth and increased prosperity;
  • Provide transport and infrastructure improvements needed to support sustainable growth;
  • Conserve and enhance the area’s environment,

What is the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan for?

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan will be a new formal statutory document, providing the overall spatial strategy and level of housing and employment land to be provided in the period to 2040.

When adopted, it will sit above Local Plans for each area, which will continue to be prepared to consider local level issues.

Neighbourhood Plans will also be promoted so communities can continue to be empowered to make the detailed planning decisions for the benefit of their area.

How many new homes will be built?

The initial Greater Exeter Strategic Plan consultation document, entitled ‘Our New Vision and How We Make It Real’, had a target of 57,000 new homes to be built across the four council areas by 2040.

Across the Greater Exeter Area, 2,661 new homes a year will need to be built, with 777 in Teignbridge, 636 in Exeter, 885 in East Devon and 363 in Mid Devon.

What land will the GESP look at?

The GESP will be looking at sites where an allocation of 500 houses upwards can be delivered (100 homes in Exeter).

Allocations that are smaller than this will be looked at in the Local Plans that are being reviewed at the same time.

A call for sites for the Greater Exeter area ran from February 27 to April 10, 2017.

This provided an opportunity for agents, developers and landowners to promote land for housing or economic development within the Greater Exeter area through the planning process.

More than 700 submissions t were received and the development potential of them is being assessed.

Where are we now?

Each of the four councils is now being asked to approve the revised timetable for the GESP.

If they agree, then a document containing the proposed strategic policies for comment, together with a number of potential strategic site options, will be produced by June 2020.

The document will contain more sites and options than will eventually be contained in the GESP.

Consultation will take place over the summer of 2020 ahead of a full draft plan being produced in November 2020, which will contain the revised policies and have narrowed down the strategic site options to a final list.

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