Agenda item

Petition - received in relation to the Protection of Green Infrastructure in Pinhoe

To consider the report of the Deputy Chief Executive.


Councillors Harvey and Wood attended the meeting as local Members to speak on this matter having given notice under Standing Order 44.


The Assistant Service Lead - Local Plan presented a report which reminded Members of the petition containing more than 2,000 signatures regarding the protection of green infrastructure in Pinhoe, which was submitted to Council in July and referred to this Scrutiny Committee.


The Chair invited the petition organiser, Kate Jago to speak on this matter. She thanked the Scrutiny Committee for the opportunity to speak and referred to the environment and biodiversity in Pinhoe which had been deteriorating over time. The community had been watching this happen with increasing anxiety.  The petition had found support from people across Exeter, with contact made by other groups concerned at the scale of loss in their areas. She suggested a Ridgeline Park project would protect the distinctive landscape of the northern hills and connect across the city and beyond, to the city’s valley parks and an extension to the Green Circle walk, to reach to the Greater Exeter areas of Poltimore and Cranbrook. This was an opportunity to safeguard these green spaces for local people and whilst there was already an amazing network of green spaces across Exeter, this would further develop the narrative of the City status and enhance the Council’s reputation of being ambitious for growth, development quality and environmental enhancement. 


Ms Jago suggested new policy frameworks should be explored for carbon offsetting and other nature recovery investment models. Natural England has already begun this process. Local Plan consultations needed new models of mapping and protecting green infrastructure to recharge the sense of civic participation. Councils could develop a new model for community housing, with local housing for local people alongside the Liveable Exeter and Exeter Net Zero plans. Exeter City Council had the opportunity to lead on this as it builds a new Local Plan and a Ridgeline Park would achieve these objectives. She asked Members to help create change to begin the process of priority that could uniquely shape this city in a new direction.


The Assistant Service Lead - Local Plan referred to the opportunity to discuss this matter and inform the early discourse on the Local Plan, currently out for consultation. The circulated report referred to the Council’s existing planning policy, acknowledging the importance of our green infrastructure including in the areas north of Pinhoe. This was already set out in our core strategy and our local plan review.  Early work on the Local Plan will help to create a strong framework for the Liveable Exeter programme, and bring forward strategic brown field sites in order to create liveable neighbourhoods and avoid environmental losses such as areas like the north of Pinhoe.  It was also relevant to bring in the work of the County Council and links to the city’s Transport Strategy. The report also made reference to neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood activity which can also help inform local policy. He was keen to understand the views of the community and Members on this matter.


Councillor Harvey spoke under Standing Order 44 and made reference to Higher Field Pinhoe, and the Council’s efforts to address climate change and green activity and biodiversity in its widest sense. Whilst the Council was bound by national legislation and guidance, it was important for as many residents and individuals to take full advantage of the opportunity to contribute with comments on the Local Plan.


Councillor Wood also spoke under Standing Order 44. He referred to the more recent timeline of the Monkerton and Hill Barton Masterplan, and the increase in development and traffic, leaving the community less opportunity to adapt. He was also aware that the application to build on Higher Fields, Pinhoe was the catalyst for the petition. The principle of the Local Plan would help shape the future pattern of development of brownfield land, higher density development in the city centre and smaller developments on the edge of the city which could be shaped more sympathetically to the green environment and the nature of local communities. The Local Plan consultation was due to end on 15 November and he also encouraged comments to be made via various links including the City Council’s website.


Members made the following comments -


·         thanks to Kate Jago for her excellent speech which was thought provoking and would enable an important contribution to the debate to the Local Plan discussion.

·         the local plan consultation would address climate change and biodiversity as a priority.

·         although there was protection ofhills to the north and north west of the city in our current Local Plan, there would be review going forward. The Council was required to provide over 12,000 homes over the next 20 years, and to subject it to an imposition of development in the city would be the worst possible outcome. The Liveable Exeter Plan was a good approach and whilst it would mean a higher density in the city centre, it would be mitigated by limited car use and green space in garden city style developments.

·         working within the existing planning legislation and framework, the sheer scale and pace of development in Pinhoe was noticeable. Efforts should be made to monitor incremental infrastructure and adhere to best practice to create the best possible environment for all.

·         the Localism Act had enabled local communities like St James to have a say in the future of their local community and that opportunity should not be ignored.

·         there was long standing priority of responding to the climate emergency and  Exeter was a very green city. It had been voted the ninth green city in England, so Exeter’s planners should continue to improve on this, notwithstanding the pressures to build new homes.


The Assistant Service Lead - Local Plan thanked Members for their comments and he encouraged everyone to view the Local Plan consultation document. Although the process was at very early stage, they were already at the point where many of the broad topics such as Net Zero 2030, landscape concerns, ecology, biodiversity, and transport, health and quality of homes had been highlighted. It was also important to continue to address some of these issues with our partners such as Devon County Council as Transport Authority, Natural England and Devon Wildlife Trust. Local planning was a lengthy process and there would be the opportunity to engage over the next two or three years to also look at more specific local areas. He made a final plea for stakeholders and members of the community to take part in any future opportunity for consultation. 


The Chair thanked Kate Jago and the ward Members for their contribution.


The Strategic Scrutiny Committee noted the report.


Supporting documents: