First stage of new Devon development blueprint wins initial support

  Posted: 09.06.21 at 14:49 by Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporter

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An alternative to a planning blueprint that was described by some as a ‘developers’ charter’ is to be put before the four local authorities involved: East Devon, Teignbridge, Exeter and Mid Devon.

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) was due to be the formal planning framework for development across the four council areas, but collapsed after Exeter and East Devon pulled out last summer.

At the time, the leader of East Devon District Council, Cllr Paul Arnott, said: “Sadly, the GESP envelope placed the cart before the horse. What was needed was a genuine consultation on what our residents want and need in terms of transport infrastructure, green homes, economic initiatives and so on, in a post-pandemic Devon.

“The consultation that had been prepared paid lip service to these, but was mainly an alarming push to 'consult' on vast new tracts of green fields going under concrete, with promises of infrastructure gains that were plainly mere aspirations. Yet again, many councillors described GESP as a ‘developer’s charter'."

However, the four councils did all agree that in place of the statutory GESP, there should be a non-statutory Joint Strategy covering strategy and infrastructure matters that affect the four areas.

Support for the preparatory measures for the Joint Strategy

On Tuesday this week (June 8), Mid Devon District Council’s cabinet became the first of the authorities to consider initial proposals on the scope, resourcing, timetable and governance arrangements for this new Joint Strategy – and unanimously voted to support them.

The meeting heard that while the Joint Strategy would not be a formal planning document and would not set policy, it was considered to be the most effective way of addressing the shared and inter-linked planning concerns that affect the four authorities.

It would help to fulfil legal duties to cooperate, and demonstrate the joint working by the authorities that is vital to help lever in funding to the area to support delivery, particularly for critical strategic infrastructure.

It would also help to establish a recognisable ‘brand’ for the area, which may assist when making bids for Government (or other) infrastructure and delivery funding.

It would enable the local authorities to continue to share expertise, and jointly commission relevant evidence to support their Local Plans, with potential cost saving and consistency benefits, councillors were told.

The proposed timetable for preparing the first version of the Joint Strategy, subject to agreement by the four authorities, would see a consultation to prepare the strategy engaged this summer, member and stakeholder engagement in the early part of 2022, finalising the draft strategy by May/June 2022, consultation on the strategy in August 2022, before formally adopting it in the autumn of 2022.

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