Councillors unanimously rejected the current document, saying it was ‘simply not fit for purpose’.
East Devon, Exeter City, Mid Devon and Teignbridge councils are currently preparing the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan to cover strategic matters for their area.
Consultation on the specific issues around the vision, and how to make it real, was set
But at Tuesday night’s East Devon Strategic Planning Committee, councillors unanimously rejected the current document, saying it was ‘simply not fit for purpose’.
The consultation document will now be redesigned and go back before councils before the public have the chance to comment on it.
The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan consultation document, titled “Our New Vision and How We Make It Real” includes the new vision for the area, explains what the Government has said the housing need is, with a target of 57,000 new homes to be built across the four council areas by 2020, asks people what the most important infrastructure projects they need to invest in are and includes the main points for a transport strategy for the area.
But East Devon councillors felt it lacked any kind of detail and was ‘just a PR document’.
Cllr Mike Allen said: “When I read this, thought it was a bit like swallowing a camel and squeaking out a gnat. There is a lot of work going on but only two pages of practical propositions and less as to how to provide it practically.
“I want to see this document enhanced with information about healthcare facilities, new technology, and energy systems, so I cannot agree that this can be the document for public consultation as needs to be more in the real world.”
Cllr Mike Howe added: “It is inconceivable that this can go out to public consultation without the major modifications that it needs. A connected city region is a great idea, but there is no ideas about how to get it and no mention of anything over than transport by road.”
The document says that in the last decade the population of the Greater Exeter area has increased by 34,000 people, but in that time traffic volumes on the local road network have not increased, but Cllr Susie Bond said: “They are living in cloud cuckoo land if they don’t think traffic on the road has increased.”
Cllr Howe added: “That traffic information is massively out of date and if there is one accident in Exeter, traffic around the whole area is gridlocked for hours. This is just is all wrong and they need to go back to square one and think about how communities actually work. As it is, this document is simply not fit for consultation.”
And Cllr Geoff Pook questioned what whether any useful information would be received from the consultation, as the questions ask ‘do you have any comments to make on the vision and the transport strategy’. He said: “People will either not know how to answer the questions or just write an essay what we don’t know what to do with it.
“Health and social care has be addressed as is the biggest time bomb that we have and there’s nothing in here about it. It is a nice PR document but not a real consultation document.”
Councillors unanimously voted that without major modifications, this council rejects the GESP vision document and expects a revised version to come to the committee that includes information about rural proofing, healthcare facilities, a sports and health vision, transport visions, energy provision, how it would be funded, and a clear series of questions that will provide a valid response.
East Devon District Council’s CEO Mark Williams said it was councillors’ right to say you want more work done before goes to consultation. He added: “It will go back to the team and the partners so the changes can be made for it be a properly constituted consultation that addressing the concerns are about the quality of life.”
Speaking after the meeting, a GESP spokesman said: “The GESP is an extremely important initiative and we want to ensure that it sets the blueprint for an enhanced quality of life for all our residents into the future.
“Full public engagement with the various stages of consultation is therefore crucially important and as partners we will sit down and re-design the proposed consultation document to achieve this. It may mean a revision to our timetable but we will go forward together.”
On Tuesday morning, Teignbridge District Council’s Executive committee had approved the document, subject to minor modifications that could be made by the portfolio holder and subject to call-in for further scrutiny, although councillors had raised similar concerns about the lack of detail.
Cllr Alistair Dewhirst said: “This document does concern me as it seems full of buzzwords but doesn’t address any of the big issues that affect the rural districts. It doesn’t address the reality of living in rural areas with relatively speaking poor bus service that not designed to get people to and from work.”
He said: “The previous version of the GESP had lots of comments which were not supportive, saying it was anodyne and not local or clear enough, so we have suggested a new vision which we are seeking comments on. It is a significant improvement, is more locally distinctive about what the plan is to achieve, and some targets to bring it to life. We are now seeking comment on the vision through the consultation.”