To consider the report of the Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning).
The Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning) presented the report on mitigating the impacts of development in its area on protected habitats such as Exe Estuary, Dawlish Warren, and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths. In catering to population growth, new dwellings increase the pressure on protected habitats, and measures must be taken to mitigate these impacts. These included on-site measures to reduce visitor pressures, as well as the implementation of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANGs), the purpose of which was to provide potential visitors to the protected habitats with an alternative greenspace to visit, thus reducing the pressure on the protected habitats. If the impacts of development on protected habitats were not mitigated, Exeter City Council would not be fulfilling its legal obligations, and Natural England may decide to intervene to place a block on development. The mitigation measures relating to the Exe Estuary, Dawlish Warren, and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths were contained in the South East Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy (SEDESMS), which was published in June 2014, and subsequently endorsed by the South East Devon Habitats Regulations Executive Committee (SEDHREC) on 29 June 2016, subject to further work being undertaken to re-evaluate costs, and to confirm overall SANGs requirements and delivery approaches. This work had now been completed.
Mitigation measures and associated costs had also now been finalised. Overall SEDESMS implementation costs had been refined and reduced from £23,553,767 to £15,456,264, a considerable overall cost saving. However, these costs must be apportioned between fewer dwellings as a result of the aforementioned revisit of a number of the assumptions underpinning the SEDESMS. There was consequently a need to revisit and increase the amount that was top-sliced from the Community Infrastructure Levy receipts from each dwelling in each of the three partner authorities’ areas, (Exeter City Council, Teignbridge District and East Devon District Councils) and each of the partner authorities also needed to revisit any high level CIL commitment to habitats mitigation. Each of the partner authorities also needed to approve the implementation of these revised per dwelling contributions, as endorsed by the SEDHREC at its meeting on 27 July 2017, and as detailed in Appendix 1 to this report. These revised contributions would be top-sliced from CIL receipts from dwellings which do not yet have planning permission. The revised contributions would not be retrospectively top-sliced from dwellings which already had planning permission.
The Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning) responded to comments made by a Member on the amount and where the receipts were held, and declared that the development money was administered by East Devon District Council. He also clarified that the annual and accumulative figures were set out in an appendix to the report.
Place Scrutiny Committee supported the report and requested Executive to recommend approval by Council of the following:-
(1) welcome the significant reduction in the overall cost of habitats mitigation measures referenced in Table 26 of the South East Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy;
(2) revised per dwelling charges for habitats mitigation detailed in Appendix 1, circulated with the report, to be implemented from 1 January 2018, and index linked in accordance with the recommendation made by the South East Devon Habitats Regulations Executive Committee on 27 July 2017; and
(3) the revised per dwelling charges would have the effect of increasing Exeter’s contribution to overall habitats mitigation costs from the £2,000,000 committed for this purpose to 2026 (by Exeter City Council’s Executive on 10 February 2015) to approximately £4,000,000 of the £15,456,264 total cost of implementing the Strategy to 2026.
Place Scrutiny Committee also noted that:-
(4) while no Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANGs) would be delivered in Exeter to 2026, the South East Devon Habitats Regulations Executive Committee (SEDHREC) had approved an appraisal being undertaken of SANGs capacity and likely delivery costs, including in Exeter’s Valley Parks, to inform the development of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan and any future iteration of the South East Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy