Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Council Under Standing Order No.20

To receive questions from Members of the Council to the relevant Portfolio Holders for this Scrutiny Committee. The Portfolio Holders reporting to this Scrutiny Committee are:-


Councillor Bialyk -       Leader

Councillor Morse -      Portfolio Holder City Development

Councillor Parkhouse Portfolio Holder Climate and Ecological Crisis

Councillor Wood -       Portfolio Holder Leisure Services and Physical Activity

Councillor Wright -      Portfolio Holder, Culture and City Centre Strategy


Advance questions from Members relating to the Portfolio Holders above should be notified to the Democratic Services Manager.




In accordance with Standing Order No.20 a number of questions were submitted and circulated in advance to Portfolio Holders, and asked at the meeting. The questions were grouped together and set out in bold and responses in italics as below -


Questions to the Portfolio Holder Climate and Ecological Crisis   Councillor Parkhouse


Councillor M Mitchell


Can the Portfolio Holder confirm whether she was asked to submit a Portfolio Holder Report to this Committee Meeting, and if so why has no report been submitted for scrutiny.

The report covering her Portfolio would have included much of the information in the Net Zero six monthly update. There was also a report being presented to the October meeting of the Executive that relates to much of her portfolio area.


Supplementary Comment and Response


The was disappointment that a report had not been produced, which would help the Committee in assisting the Portfolio Holder as well as the Executive in relation to portfolio matters.


In my previous portfolio of Leisure and Physical Activity there had been a delay in reporting but she was happy to come back to a future meeting in a following month. The deferral was in relation to the timing of this meeting and she understood that it had not been possible to seek a report from another Portfolio Holder for this meeting.


Councillor Moore


The City needs to have a renewed focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and have a serious dialogue about the need to and adapt to the impact of climate change - with deep consideration to the impacts on our people - especially in light of the widening inequality in the city and the impact on the local environment - both on land and water.


How do you think the work on Net Zero as a city can be made more transparent and accountable?


A report on city wide Net Zero is being brought to the Executive in October and that is the appropriate forum for this to be discussed.  

Supplementary Question and Response


Do you have a view on how work on the city wide Net Zero can be made more transparent and accountable?


It was premature to have that discussion and after the report to the Executive there will be the opportunity to have a more informed discussion.

 Do you view the Exeter Net Zero 2030 plan is fit for purpose, covering both carbon reduction, adaptation actions and giving consideration of the impacts on the most vulnerable and least well off in the city? 


The Exeter Net Zero 2030 provides a roadmap to reduce city wide carbon emissions with many of the recommendations and actions still really relevant to the city. It was designed in consultation with residents and councillors through a consultation process. A report on city wide Net Zero is being brought to the Executive in October where the Net Zero city ambitions will be discussed. She added that as with every document it should be made more of a living document, it was written during the Covid pandemic, and it does lack that adaptation.

Supplementary Question and Response

The roadmap was adopted at the start of the Covid outbreak and the follow up event and consultation was not able to take place. There was also no detailed analysis of this. Will you ensure that the document is updated and fit for purpose?

At the moment, there is work taking place on what the next step will be, in respect of the city wide Net Zero Strategy and this document will certainly be considered as part of that.


The Climate Change Committee have highlighted the importance of understanding risk. Do you think the city needs a risk register - covering both mitigation and adaptation - which will then inform policy and investment decisions?


The Devon Climate Emergency produced a Climate Change Risk Register for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.  The risk register identified a range of climate impacts that the South West is facing, and scored them depending on their likelihood and potential impact.  RSK environmental consultants were appointed to work with the Devon Climate Emergency team to progress an Adaptation Strategy covering Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and we are a part of this work. 

Supplementary Question and Response

The Met Office produced an analysis of risks including Exeter and being part of the wider more strategic work, do you feel that there is a need for an understanding locally, particularly as there has been recent extreme weather and heavy rain that almost flooded houses. So in terms of the need to understand the implications for Exeter would the Portfolio Holder agree?

There had been an extreme variance in the weather and it was important to look at this in terms of a Net Zero Strategy for the city, and moving forward there may need to be consideration to look at this more locally.

What can you do as Portfolio Holder to support accurate and transparent information about the City's work on climate change and communicate the implications of the science and the necessity for action?”



As part of what is coming next in terms of Net Zero for the city, she would discuss this at an Executive level and with the Chief Executive and Senior Management team.


Councillor Read


Will Councillor Parkhouse be able to meet with Members of the Progressive Group to discuss Net Zero matters?




Councillor Parkhouse suggested that once more proposals were formulated she would be happy to meet.


Questions to the Leader – Councillor Bialyk


Councillor Read


“Embedding Net Zero in all services and planning activity was an ambitious plan and as a local authority powers in relation to Net Zero were minimal. Exeter City Futures was being wound down, but Exeter still intended to work with a number of partners including the University of Exeter. The Council had signed up to a Civic University agreement and there was a meeting with the Vice Chancellor”. Assuming this meeting has happened when is the report from it to be published? What was the outcome of how the work will be taken forward and will there be coordination with the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) who are also making significant proposals to meet Net Zero.



The City Council was a member of the Civic University Partnership Board, together with representatives including Chris Tiedeman from the NHS, John Laramy Exeter College and Lisa Roberts from the University. They were working on a number of work streams including Net Zero. The Civic Partnership had been in place for a year with discussions reflecting the principles that were adopted with partners in the city. He had agreed with the Vice Chancellor to make a report to the Executive, and he was happy to provide an update on the work being carried out by the Partnership to the Scrutiny Committee.


Supplementary Question and Response


Was there any news in relation to the RD&E Hospital?


The RD&E Hospital are one of the key partners and institutions that the Partnership hope to work with, but he was not aware of the relationship with the Partnership Agreement. They attend the meetings but perhaps that is a question of the NHS Trust.  The Director Net Zero confirmed that officers liaised with the University, College and the RD&E Hospital very closely including on the proposals for a District Heating Network. He meets with both the Sustainability Leads and Directors to consider ways to work collaboratively.  A further debate on Net Zero would be appropriate to see how the proposals post Exeter City Futures affect the City Council have been discussed at the Executive. The Council continued to work on a number of large collaborative projects.


“Exeter City Living (ECL) had no targets for social and affordable housing. The Chief Executive stated that the Council have set a target for the delivery of 500 homes over 10 years and significant progress has been made in that area, but it was not for ECL to determine how the Council delivered social or affordable housing.“

Given the target of Exeter City Council (ECC) to build 500 council homes over 10 years (commitment in 2020), is ECL the best delivery mechanism, given that it does not propose to build affordable homes, and therefore not propose to build the “balanced communities” that ECC states its target is to provide.



The delivery of 500 homes for social and affordable housing are part of a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) commitment and ECL were not responsible for delivering the Council’s Affordable Housing. A list of those projects coming forward through the HRA was previously presented to the Executive.


Supplementary Question and Response


How does that relate to the City Council’s policy to build balanced communities if there are major new developments if no affordable housing was included.


The 500 homes to be built under the HRA will be affordable rented homes and not for private rent. Exeter City Living were like any other developer and Planning Committee and officers would always seek a 35% affordable housing allocation or what was viable. The question of a balanced community was not linked to the 500 homes.

Questions to the Portfolio Holder City Development – Councillor Morse 


Councillor Moore

Has the local Plan team agreed to progress the recommendation of the Customer Focus Committee in December 2022 for the Local Plan team to lead the production of a biodiversity status report, nature recovery plan and tree canopy cover action plan to be included within the Local Plan?



The Local Plans team has reviewed this recommendation. These pieces of work link closely to other projects which are covered elsewhere. Devon County Council has now been confirmed as the lead authority for the preparation of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy which will identify networks of ecological importance for improvement in future. The Council, including the City Development Team, is feeding into this work. A specific aim of this piece of work is to provide a strategic view on local ecology to inform the local planning process. This project effectively covers the suggested need for a biodiversity status report and nature recovery plan. The emerging Exeter Plan will include a suite of policies on the natural environment. In terms of tree canopy, this topic is covered in other studies. The Council is providing input into the preparation of a Devon Tree Strategy whilst work on a Tree and Woodland Strategy is underway. The Council has already set out a corporate goal of 30% tree canopy cover. This aspiration will be translated into policy in the emerging Exeter Plan.


It was noted that a question had been received from Councillor Ketchin, and in noting the anticipated response from Councillor Morse, Portfolio Holder for City Development that this would raise a Declaration of Interest for him in relation to his place of work. He withdrew from the room only whilst the question was asked and answered. Councillor Moore asked the question at the meeting.  


In response to enquiries by the St David’s ward Councillors it has been confirmed that the Section 106 agreements have been agreed with the developer of the Clarence Hotel so planning permission can be granted. Please can you present the details of those agreements -



The Section 106 agreement in relation to the Royal Clarence Hotel has now been completed and the planning permission has been issued. In summary, the obligations are as follows:


·         Prior to the occupation of 23 (i.e. the last residential unit) pay:

·         £13,425 towards patient space at local GP surgeries.

·         £22,661 to provide additional healthcare services at Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

·         £2,173,238.07 affordable housing financial contribution.


These contributions are subject to a deferred contributions mechanism. Three months after practical completion, the developer will be required to submit viability information to us. Depending on profits, build costs etc. will depend on how much money will be available for the health contributions and then if there is still money left over – affordable housing. The detail of this mechanism is set out in the Section 106 Agreement.


Supplementary Question and Response


Are the negotiations about the ramp over the cobbles between the shop and Cathedral Close to make the area more accessible proceeding?.



A response would be obtained for the Member.


Could you explain when you expect work to start onsite?



At present there was no further details on when the applicant intends to commence the development.


Supplementary Question and Response


Would the Council consider using a notice of works to ensure that the work will progress and not have the building deteriorate further.


Both the Leader and she were aware of how important this building is and to get the Cathedral Green back but she was not able to guarantee when the works will commence. 


Councillor Ketchin


Reports in the media and residents refer to the haste to complete the Gorge development for the start of the University term.  This development was principally Co Living accommodation and not a Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). He asked if the City Council would consider carrying out an audit and publish the habitation statistics for the Gorge in the first year of occupation.



Councillor Morse invited the Assistant Service Lead (Local Plan) to contribute to the response. The Assistant Service Lead (Local Plan) would ask the Principal Project Manager (Local Plan) who said that the Gorge development had been completed and that monitoring could be carried out by the wider Planning team in terms of habitation information, and to assess the information that we may wish to secure.


Supplementary Question and Response


He wished to propose that an audit of occupation be carried out, and if it showed that the predominant resident pattern was students, would the Council reconsider the recent changes to CIL, to group Co Living with PBSA accommodation.




A review of the CIL charging schedule was part of a long process. This could be looked at in the future, if it becomes more of an issue.


The Leader added that he understood Councillor Ketchin’s concerns and his comments on the CIL rates for Co Living and PBSA accommodation. Any assessment of the CIL schedule would have been made at a point in time.


The Assistant Service Lead (Local Plan) provided an explanation of the CIL charging regime and for Co Living, the regular CIL rate would apply. There were now different rates of CIL contributions for Co Living, but consideration had to be given to PBSA, Section 106 and Affordable Housing contributions which would all have an effect on the rate paid. The delivery of PBSA was monitored.


Councillor Morse acknowledged the proposal and advised it was for the Executive to consider that request.


Councillor Ketchin moved a request for an audit of Co Living accommodation to establish if there was a pattern of occupation that was beginning to occur. Councillor Morse suggested that an audit would be possible, but that the Leader oversaw the CIL charging regime.


The proposal was seconded and following a vote was carried.


Councillor M Mitchell


If the occupation of a Co-living developments was entirely occupied by students and they were claiming a council tax exemption, was the development still classed as a Co-Living development.




Councillor Morse would obtain a written reply.


The Chair thanked the Portfolio Holders for attending the meeting.