East Devon District Council has voted to pull out of the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. Here, Council leader Paul Arnott explains the reasoning behind the change of policy.

A meeting of full council at East Devon District Council (EDDC) has voted to leave the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan.

Little more than a third of our 60 councillors favoured staying in, mainly Conservatives.

Readers could reasonably ask, what was the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) anyway? And why should they care?

So, the GESP was an attempt to combine planning strategies for four district councils: East Devon, Exeter, Mid-Devon, and Teignbridge.

It had been rumbling on for about three years almost entirely out of sight.

Remarkably, there had never been a single debate about it at full council – until last Thursday!

GESP was meant in theory to help the four districts work together to find future land to be developed into 500 home-plus sites.

The thinking was that if all four knew what each other were doing, other exciting policies for transport infrastructure and so on could be developed together, leading perhaps to dualling of the Axminster to Exeter railway line, or great improvements to the A3052.

Given those aspirations, any sensible democratic collaboration would see transport, ecological and economic aims agreed first in the full light of scrutiny.

That could have been brilliant and very productive.

Then, and only then, might there be consideration given to where we might wish to build the homes which – in theory – would help fund much of that through the Community Infrastructure Levy on new builds.

With that all parcelled up neatly, the four could then appeal to Government for the funds needed for the massive new transport network necessary to sustain all this.

Instead, with the landowner and developer lobby – as is all too familiar in East Devon – setting the agenda, the officers of the four districts wanted to ‘consult’ on sites first, the other key policies lagging way behind.

The developer cart was, as usual, running way ahead of the public interest horse.

Your elected members at East Devon said ‘enough is enough’ last week.

Now we move on to develop our new Local Plan as urgently as possible - and you can be sure that this time we will do this in the full light of day.