To consider the report of the Director of City Development.
The Assistant Service Lead Local Plan presented the report explaining the community engagement process for preparing the Exeter Plan (the Local Plan). He stated that the process for preparing the Exeter Plan was managed through legislation (the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) (Regulations 2012) which sets the need for consultation at an early stage in the process to define the scope of the Plan and then once the Plan has reached a final draft stage called publication.
The Council was committed to going beyond this requirement and was organising three formal consultations on the preparation of the Plan. In addition to the ‘Issues’ consultation which had been held between September and November 2021, consultations would be held on a draft plan and a final publication draft thereafter. If, at the Examination of the Plan, the Inspector required modifications, further consultation would also be held. The next formal consultation on the Exeter Plan would take place in September of this year.
The way in which the Council would consult on the Exeter Plan was set out formally in the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) and that, although not a requirement, the Council had held a consultation on the draft SCI in 2021. New ways of engaging innovatively and interactively were currently being investigated for the next round of the Exeter Plan consultation to be held in the autumn. In addition to the SCI, the engagement activities planned for the Exeter Plan would also accord with the Council’s Consultation Charter.
Further informal engagement would be undertaken on specific issues considered by the Exeter Plan. This would enable the Council to make the most of opportunities to explore linkages between projects and also make best use of resources. A key part would be through joint working with Liveable Exeter. The Council was currently working in partnership with the RAMM and Exeter Culture to stage workshops on the ‘Future of the High Street’ while a summer-long exhibition in the RAMM was being held to explain more about Liveable Exeter. These activities would be using Lego models - the Brick by Brick Exhibition - and other interactive activities to engage in a different way. Also in July, the Council was launching a city-wide consultation on the ‘Future Place’ of Exeter, which would be asking local people about a vision for their future neighbourhoods and districts. This work would all feed into the Exeter Plan.
The Director City Development and Assistant Service Lead Local Plan responded to Members’ queries:-
· a key consideration of the consultative process was to take on board the views of the public. The SCI sets out how public responses would be used to inform the Plan and the responses received to the ‘Issues’ consultation held between September and November 2021 had been reported through the Committee system;
· the Exeter Plan would be a strategic land use development document with a range of policies and would cover all aspects of how the city would grow to 2040. It would be important to explain the role of Liveable Exeter as a delivery initiative which would help underpin the Plan. The Exeter Plan, for example, identified the overall strategy for brownfield sites and Liveable Exeter set out the principles for delivering in these sites. Consultation on the Plan would include an on-line facility which would allow navigation through the various policies;
· consultation on Liveable Exeter (feeding into the Exeter Plan) would include wider engagement with schools, Exeter College and the University of Exeter. Exeter College students had undertaken an exercise envisaging future development of Exeter St David’s Station and the basis of the Lego Exhibition had been to involve local schools and the younger generation;
· the University was one of the city’s key anchor institutions and its continued growth and success, both nationally and internationally, was guided by its Master Plan. With an end date of 2026, the Master Plan was under review in liaison with the City Council and work on this would dovetail with the development of the Exeter Plan; and
· the engagement of community associations would also be a key element of the consultative process, the Assistant Service Lead Local Plan having recently addressed the St Leonard’s Neighbourhood Association.
The Chair read out three questions submitted in advance by a Committee Member who was unable to attend, the answers to which are set out below:-.
· in respect of the request from the Member for communities to be able to influence planning policy through seminars or workshops, for example on the development of a Neighbourhood Plan this, together with any specific requests from a community body, would be considered within the context of available staff resources. Advice could also be made available on how to navigate on line the large amount of free information on Neighbourhood Plans;
· in respect of the request from a Member for locally based neighbourhood consultation to inform the Plan, in particular around Liveable Exeter sites, the report detailed the intention to go well beyond the statutory minimum required for consultation, for example the ‘Future of the High Street’ exhibition and the launch of the ‘Future Place’ of Exeter consultation. The goal was to involve as wide a cross section of residents and businesses, as well as visitors, as possible. Further reports would be submitted to Members on the progress of the consultations and the ideas raised; and
· in respect of the Member’s request for a second round of consultation, this was already timetabled for an eight week period from the end of September. There would also be informal consultations, with details again to be reported to Members.
The Portfolio Holder City Development confirmed that Members would be kept fully informed of the consultative process which would be as open and transparent as possible. In addition to the current reporting of the various stages to the Planning Member Working Group regular reports on the Exeter Plan would be made to the Strategic Scrutiny Committee.
RESOLVED that Scrutiny Committee note the report.