Thousands sign petition plea for developers to ‘stop destroying historic Exeter’

A petition signed by more than 4,000 people calling for developers to ‘stop destroying historic Exeter’ has been handed to the city council. 

Driving forces behind the plea say loopholes in planning policies are being exploited and are concerned over long-term damage to culture and heritage, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

They claim a lack of clear rules, backed by thorough research and evidence into what Exeter really needs, means schemes are being passed that normally would not.

Half of those who have signed the ‘Please help us stop developers destroying historic Exeter’ petition have an EX postcode.

Campaigner Joy Wrightson said: “Large new developments designed to make the developers rich, but which bring little to the city in terms of amenity or architectural value, are already beginning to dominate the central skyline.

“We want the council to have properly up-to-date policies so that control of planning isn’t always in the hands of the developers and consultation with residents is more than a tick-box exercise.”

Presenting the petition to a meeting of Exeter City Council on Tuesday,  Andy Robinson said gaps in policy mean the authority has to take developers’ claims ‘at face value’.

He added they are ‘overwhelming focused on profit and not protecting the people who live in the city’.

Mr Robinson said: “Thousands of people say stop and find out what is needed and what is not. We have a right to influence the environment and we expect it to be improved and not destroyed.”

The petition asks the council to put on hold any significant new developments which affect heritage assets, which are not governed by existing policy, and for which the authority has not conducted a needs assessment.

Campaigners say these should be paused until appropriate research and policies are in place.

It also asks for the council to urgently put additional and adequate resources towards research and development of these policies and to ensure schemes are backed by historic bodies before they are validated for public consultation.

The petition also calls for new research-backed policies for every kind of development, including co-living, conservation areas, affordable and sustainable housing and student accommodation.

An urgent assessment of infrastructure levies and policies for the protection of green spaces and trees is also called for.

Mr Robinson added: “Without these policies we cannot maintain acceptable standards for dwellings, protect our city’s ancient heritage, design a sustainable future or defend the city’s green spaces and wild environments.

“Without up-to-date research, how can we be sure what kind of housing is needed, how much it should cost, where it should be – and where it shouldn’t be?”

The petition was due to be debated for 15 minutes at the start of the Tuesday night’s full council meeting.

However, Councillor Peter Holland, Lord Mayor of Exeter, instead decided to send the petition to the authority’s planning committee for a proper and full debate.

He said: “It should be carried forward to a planning committee meeting where it will be discussed properly and there will be officers there to discuss it and look at where we should be going with this.”

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