In accordance with Standing Order No. 8, the following questions were put by Councillor Diana Moore to the Leader.
1. As the benefits to health and well-being of green space are well documented, including in Council strategies, please can you confirm if any green space between the Exeter Ship Canal and the River Exe or Bonhay Meadows, near Exe Bridges, is under any consideration for development (including infrastructure) as part of the Liveable Exeter programme?
The Leader responded that the Liveable Exeter Vision had been presented to Council and to a Members’ Briefing with potential development sites identified but that no decisions had been made as it was a vision document. Where appropriate, sites would be identified in the forthcoming Exeter Local Plan.
Exeter City Living, the development arm of the City Council, is examining, and will continue to examine, the suitability of land for development in accordance with the vision for Liveable Exeter - including sites such as Bonhay Meadows. You may recall from the Liveable Exeter vision document images of buildings alongside the river. It never pays to take literally images in visioning documents, but the concept of fronting development onto the River instead of turning its back on the River is a key principle in Liveable Exeter - it offers opportunities for enhanced waterside amenity and to allow residents to connect with the riverside environment.
That said, there are existing planning policies that would need to be considered should any scheme come forward and there are flood risk considerations whenever there is building close to a river. There are also likely to be requirements for new transport infrastructure to improve linkages across the River for cyclists and pedestrians. Given that we are in the early days of addressing the practical delivery challenges of a shift in housing strategy, and the consequential infrastructure requirements to service 12,000 homes, I cannot be more precise about the specific future interventions which will be required at this time.
Councillor Diana Moore sought confirmation as to whether any land between Exeter Ship Canal and the River Exe was being considered for development, including any infrastructure?
The Leader responded that the same principle as stated in his initial answer above applied and that no decision had been made in respect of individual areas. It remained the priority to deliver 12,000 homes and that, rather than build on green fields on the periphery of the city, building at density close to the city centre and on the riverside was the intention to enable residents to walk and cycle to work and to facilities and to help meet the Council’s active travel and net zero ambitions. Solutions, such as higher rise buildings would also be advantageous to limit use of valuable green open space.
2. We will soon reach the second anniversary of the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis and that Exeter should reach Net Zero carbon by 2030. Will an annual carbon budget, the planned carbon reduction trajectory for the next nine years, and the progress towards Net Zero 2030 commitment over the last year be published for both the City Council and the city itself?
The Leader responded that clear and transparent ways in which we can report progress on carbon reduction targets were yet to be finalised and the focus of the resources we have remains on making practical interventions which have real impact. Measuring the City Council’s progress against a proposed trajectory should be relatively straight forward once the carbon action plan is complete.
This work is being completed by the Centre for Energy and the Environment at Exeter University with housing being the first service to contribute to the carbon plan. This will identify the opportunities available and a plan of action for each service. In addition to this, our annual carbon baseline is reported to Scrutiny.
Measuring the progress of the city is a hugely complex process and with the resources we have available will not be possible at any level of significant detail. The city has great support from its major institutions via Exeter City Futures and the Place Board, who have ambitious carbon reduction plans and are keen to feed in their progress. Monitoring progress of smaller business and our residents is not realistically achievable but we will look to best practice from other cities to help us, as well as any new and emerging technologies to achieve this.
Councillor D. Moore asked a supplementary question as to what body was responsible for ensuring progress towards a Net Zero city and how that progress would be scrutinised and by whom?
The Leader responded that progress would be scrutinised within the existing scrutiny framework of the Council, emphasising that, whilst Council resources were under considerable pressure, it remained the ambition of the Council and all Members to achieve a Net Zero Exeter.
Last year the Council approved, in
principle, to set up a market rent housing company to purchase
property from Exeter City Living (or on the private sector market)
and provide property for market rent to the public. Please can the
Portfolio Holder confirm:
a) if the feasibility study on this market rent company has been concluded, resulting in the company been set up or other arrangements put in place to progress this, and
b) what proportion of market rent to affordable housing underpins the business model assumptions?
The Leader, as the relevant Portfolio Holder, responded that a feasibility study and Business Case for the company were being developed. It was the Council’s aspiration to bring forward a residential property company in order to disrupt the private rental market in Exeter to offer people decent, accessible homes, to provide security of tenure and to combat landlord evictions of tenants.