The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services will present this draft for discussion. The committee are asked to provide feedback on the priorities and actions.
The Chairman welcomed the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services to the meeting, to present the emerging draft Council Plan 2020 – 2024.
The Portfolio Holder explained the purpose of the plan is to set the strategic priorities for the Council. Drawing up the plan was a collaborative process, and she welcomed any input on it from the Committee and other councillors present. The draft plan would also be considered by the Scrutiny Committee, before going to Cabinet on the 30 October, with the final revised version being presented to Council on the 11 December. She specifically thanked the Strategic Lead Organisational Development, Transformation and Equalities for all her hard work in helping prepare the plan.
Questions on the plan, and suggestions for amendments generally, included:
· Summary information in the plan was based on data held by the Council, and information provided by Exeter University specifically on CO?;
· That the plan was not sufficiently creative or aspirational;
· That budget shortfall figures should be consistent through the document
Specifically on priority one: outstanding place and environment:
a. Expand on working with Natural England to include working with East Dorset on a new national park;
b. What was the latest decision on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan;
c. CPRE report wants to build more homes than are needed;
d. What was meant by promoting open spaces on a commercial basis;
e. Accessible green space at Cranbrook should be credited to Cranbrook Town Council, not the District;
f. There is no reference to the playing pitch strategy – suggested that there is reference both to that, and to providing opportunities for sport, culture and leisure as part of preparations for the next Local Plan and the GESP;
g. Proposals for housing design have drifted and should be a focus for planning
h. Make specific reference to working with health support groups (there are a number, based in each town and in other areas) across the District, as well as enable links to local community hospitals;
i. Include cycle paths in future infrastructure, in reference to Cranbrook;
In response to the points on priority one: outstanding place and environment:
a. Building a case for a new national park covering the AONB areas in Dorset and East Devon is expected to take ten years or more, outside the period of the draft plan, and therefore it was deemed sensible to wait for an outcome of the review, before configuring that into a council plan;
b. No decision has been taken on the GESP; an update report on progress by the new councils on it would be provided to the Strategic Planning Committee in November;
c. Location of new housing will take into account all evidence, including the CPRE report, as has been set out in previous reports to the Strategic Planning Committee; the GESP and Local Plan are subject to consultation processes;
d. Events run on council land is what is meant by promoting open spaces on a commercial basis, to help generate additional income;
i. The development plan document is currently with the Inspector – if cyclepaths are not part of the plan that the Inspector has to consider, there isn’t provision to include that – if the plan is found to be sound, the suggestion could subsequently be examined;
Specifically on priority two: outstanding homes and communities:
a. What is the level of tenancy fraud;
b. What are current levels of deprivation, broken down by town;
c. How devolution of assets will be delivered – will it be on a town by town basis or collectively across the District;
d. Divert the budget for an online ticketing service from section 106 funding to delivering the Beach Management Plan (BMP) for Sidmouth;
e. Not enough affordable homes delivered and no news from the Housing Company; diminishing housing stock issue needs to be addressed and incorporated into the plan.
In response to the points on priority two: outstanding homes and communities:
a. Tenancy fraud level is low, confirmed by an amnesty run in 2018;
b. Specific data would come forward in a future report to the committee following the work of the Devon Strategic Partnership Welfare Task Group;
c. Asset Management Forum have a report on the next steps for the agreed devolution of assets, which will come back to Cabinet along with the outcome of the pilot undertaken at Beer Parish Council;
d. Section 106 funding is limited to where it can be spent by the agreement set up – it must relate directly to tourism and therefore cannot be utilised for the BMP.
Specifically on priority three: outstanding economic growth, productivity and prosperity:
a. Where are the high skilled and better paid job opportunities in the District;
b. What is the innovative approach to promoting tourism and what are the footfall figures for Seaton Jurassic;
c. No comprehensive view of the rural and coastal community, the plan could be interpreted as only having focus on higher paid jobs being provided by the science park;
d. Weighting high skilled/paid jobs to the west of the district meant that those who reside in the east would need to travel – there needs to be an even distribution across the District to reduce travel distances;
e. Consider expanding on supporting infrastructure providers, as there will be a shortfall in the CDS project in delivering broadband across the District; having a good broadband service in place allows rural communities to better develop local businesses that can operate remotely and therefore helps boost the local economy. There needs to be action to enable a better penetration of broadband in the District;
f. More promotion of the services available to SMEs, and work to deliver small business units that are needed in the District
In response to the points on priority three: outstanding economic growth, productivity and prosperity:
a. The plan sets out to try to provide different land for different jobs, to encourage higher paid jobs – examples being the airport and the science park;
b. Number of visitors to Seaton Jurassic can be provided to the councillor; previous attempts had been made to join up the tourism offer to promote the district as a whole, but towns had been reluctant to buy into that and had preferred to promote themselves on a single destination basis, so not pursued by the previous Council. This would be reviewed under the new administration;
d. The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services commented that the plan had the aspiration for all towns in the District to be able to offer highly skilled/paid jobs
Specifically on priority four: outstanding council and council services:
a. In regard to relocating to Blackdown House and Exmouth Town Hall, the savings are less than claimed; was the Project Manager still employed, what is the total consultation bill and the total refurbishment bill for Exmouth Town Hall;
In response to the points on priority four: outstanding council and council services:
a. Cabinet will receive a report one year after the relocation that will outline the savings achieved and various elements related to the relocation;
The Leader explained to the committee his desire, and that of his Cabinet, to work towards delivering for the District’s towns to enable them to become as self-sufficient as possible. He also shared his ambition for all towns to have their own business centres in the future, and the expansion of small business units to again help the degree of self-sufficiency each town could develop. Through the Heart of Devon partnership, an economic strategy was due to be presented to Government in the New Year outlining plans to expand growth in the enterprise zone areas.
He also commented that work was underway to try to change the diminishing housing stock, and that it would take time to ensure that the right policies were in place, and that any new stock built would not be taken away by Government. He looked forward to hearing ideas from Councillors on how to address social housing, weighing up what could be delivered and within the law.
The Chairman brought the debate to a conclusion, adding that three elements would impact what the Council could deliver: Brexit; a general election; and climate change. It was likely that the plan would have to adapt over time to deal with those outcomes.
RECOMMENDED to Cabinet to accept the draft Council Plan, subject to revision taking into account the comments made during the debate by the Overview Committee; specifically that that there is reference both to the playing pitch strategy, and to providing opportunities for sport, culture and leisure as part of preparations for the next Local Plan and the GESP