Agenda item

Petition - Protect Green Infrastructure in Pinhoe

In accordance with the Council’s Petition Scheme, as the above petition contains more than 2,000 signatures it will be debated by the full Council. The petition organiser will be given five minutes to present the petition and the petition will then be discussed by Councillors for a maximum of 15 minutes.



The Lord Mayor referred to the Council’s Petition Scheme and invited Kate Jago, the petition organiser, to present and speak on the following petition, entitled “Protect Green Infrastructure in Pinhoe which had gained more than 2,000 signatures.


“We the undersigned petition the Council to safeguard Pinhoe’s natural landscape and skyline, urgently to protect our historic hedgerows and trees, and to recognise these wildlife habitats are essential to our community wellbeing and quality of life, as intrinsic features of our local distinctiveness and character.

We call for formal protection of Higher Field as open green space vital to our community and the diversity of local wildlife, and for robust protection of its critical landscape position as part of the Pinhoe Ridgeline connecting to northern Exeter’s distinctive woodland skyline, visible across the city. We call for protection and funded repair of wildlife habitats across Pinhoe within Exeter City Council’s strategic vision for Liveable Exeter and the corporate plan to “tackle congestion and accessibility, promoting active and healthy lifestyles and building great neighbourhoods”.

Kate Jago thanked the Council for its time and attention and to the Council officers for their guidance and advice in running the petition. She also thanked all of the individual and collective contributions made and the commitment to local democracy at this time of climate emergency.


She stated that the petition highlighted the extractive models of development which have hollowed out green infrastructure in Pinhoe. The petition sought the Council’s cross-party support for a transformative community-led vision for Pinhoe and for the city’s northern hills, to protect wellbeing, wildlife and wild spaces not only for Pinhoe but for the whole of Exeter, connecting the vital nature recovery network across the city and beyond.


When the parish of Pinhoe joined Exeter in 1966, it embraced its new role as a city suburb. Rural farming fields gave way to development - slowly at first, but with gathering speed. Pinhoe had played an important part in the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point area: hosting the Met Office and bordering the Science Park as part of the joint strategy for adjacent development. Substantial housing developments weave through and wrap around the village alongside all the accompanying traffic, business and educational infrastructure.


Exeter City Council’s efforts to contextualise development while under sustained pressure from successive Government targets was recognised but those protections had failed and the consequences were cascading towards collapse.

More than 1,500 cars an hour pass through the centre of Pinhoe during peak times. The traffic strategy for Pinhoe was already on the brink of collapse and this was a crisis, with changes needing to be made. Meanwhile, historic sunken lanes were breached; footpaths and rights of way removed and degraded; important landmark trees were vulnerable, isolated from the context of their landscape; wildlife corridors were being decimated. It was considered to be death by a thousand cuts.


In neighbouring East Devon, the ambitious Clyst Valley Regional Park has widespread public support, and having successfully achieved a bid for major funding which was woven through their East Devon District Council’s strategic objectives. With well-defined networks of greenspaces, environmental sustainability, plus local and national collaboration established as core values, it was a wonderful model. Exeter City Council had challenged Government guidelines where it could and officers had sought to balance the impossible demands not only in Pinhoe, but across the city and residents were heartened by the Council’s recent support for Pinhoe Ridge at Higher Field.


Kate Jago stated that the vision was to establish a natural asset network of historic lanes, public greenspaces, footpaths and bridleways to be placed at the core of a new community-led approach to create a resilient, sustainable active travel area in Pinhoe. This community asset strategy could open new avenues of funding and infrastructure investment. The Pinhoe Area Access Strategy could be revisited and revised in this context, identifying pollution hotspots, developing community-led solutions and placing the wellbeing of our community directly within Exeter’s corporate strategy to tackle congestion and accessibility, promote active healthy lifestyles and great neighbourhoods. Support from Exeter City Council for this could be foundational.


This petition also marked the beginning of the campaign for the northern hills, an iconic part of the city’s skyline, to be protected as the city’s Ridgeline Park: A connection to the city’s green circle of Valley Parks at Mincinglake and to the Clyst Valley Regional Park at Poltimore is proposed, to create an extensive, ambitious nature recovery network in line with Natural England’s national project. It could also extend into Somerset via the Two Counties Way.


Underpinning the sense of place for both Pinhoe and Beacon Heath, this project would protect wildlife and wild spaces not only for these communities but for the whole of Exeter, connecting a walkable nature recovery network across the city and beyond. Building from the petition to create our community-led vision for connection across the city, this was the project of hope, founded on practical potential and demonstrating social and environmental value to all of Exeter.


The Portfolio Holder for City Development thanked Kate Jago for presenting the petition, and referred to the first part of the presentation which essentially covered the City Council’s Policy LS1 Landscape Protection. The protection of the hills of Pinhoe was included within the current Local Plan and was a principle for the future Plan now being developed. The aim of the petition was at the centre of Council policies being brought forward through the Local Plan and within the Liveable Exeter Strategy. The Council had always sought to protect the Pinhoe Ridgeline having refused and defended a planning decision in respect of a Pinhoe site at appeal and at the High Court. The Portfolio Holder encouraged the signatories to engage with the Local Plan as the impact of public consultation was of great value.


During discussion, Members made the following comments:-


·        the 2,000 signatories were largely those who had been impacted by the increasing development and the driver behind the petition was the opposition to the recent planning application in respect of Higher Field. They remain greatly concerned about other green areas both in Pinhoe and across the city. The petition should be referred to the appropriate Scrutiny Committee;

·         welcome the petition by local people, the second over the past year that highlighted the need to protect Exeter’s nature and heritage which were valuable assets;

·        involvement with the work of the Devon Local Nature Recovery Strategy in the development of the Local Plan would be particularly beneficial as protecting  nature would help achieve the Net Zero 2030 target for Exeter. The network aims to protect, restore and create habitats that increase carbon sequestration;

·        the value of ridgelines all around Exeter was recognised not just for their views but for enhancing and providing space for nature;

·        the petition reflected the Council’s declaration of the Climate Emergency in 2019 and the Ecological Emergency declaration on 27 April 2021. The Council should look to protect, create and restore green spaces in the city and ecology and nature should be at the forefront of the new Local Plan to protect areas from development. There should be a call for sites to be protected as well as for development;

·        issues in respect of footways, cycleways and greenways fall within the remit of Devon County Council; and

·        the Council recognised the value of green space across and around the city in terms of recreation, biodiversity and the health of citizens.


The Lord Mayor thanked Kate Jago for the presentation.


Councillor Wood moved and Councillor Foale seconded that the petition be referred to the Strategic Scrutiny Committee.  


RESOLVED that the petition be referred to the Strategic Scrutiny Committee.