ECC Planning Committee Voted 8:5 for Haven Banks Development

After more than 4 hours of presentations and debate, Exeter City Council Planning Committee voted 8:5 in favour of the Haven Banks mixed housing development. Richard Smith from the Haven Banks Neighbourhood Group used his 3 minutes to point out that approving the current plan meant that 17.5% of the projected homes for the wider Water Lane area redevelopment would be built on 5% of the land. He rightly called this overdevelopment of this site. Exeter Council Leader Phil Bialyk spoke as a Councillor at the Committee meeting pointing out that the decision the Committee members would take would send a signal to the potential developers of the other brownfield sites. In an at times emotional plea, he warned that it was a major strategic decision to be taken and that approval was needed to support the overarching vision for the city's development. Later Ian Collinson, Director of City Development, spoke in the closing stages before the debate, also highlighting that this was a critical moment for this council's brownfield strategy, which had to be shown as being deliverable. For him the overarching benefit of the Haven Banks Application was clear, he concluded his lengthy statement.

Earlier Cllr Diana Moore had explained the local St David’s Ward councillors concerns about the plans on the table, making clear that they and the residents were clearly in favour of redevelopment of this area, but saw more than efficient grounds for refusal of the current proposal. She then laid these out in a detailed statement with more than a dozen issues.

The officers, who had worked on the planning process for this site over 18 months, renegotiating plans directly with the developer, had put a 60 page report together,¬† which recommended granting permission subject to a S106 Agreement, but also included a ‘secondary recommendation to REFUSE permission in the event the S106 Agreement is not completed within the requisite timeframe for the reasons set out’ (p.17).

At the debate stage of the meeting, all speakers agreed that this was a complex application and difficult decision to be made. Almost all pointed out that the impact this development would have on the residents was an important element of their decision, especially as the height and massing of the new buildings would result in a loss of light for some residents.

The recommendation comes with a long list of demands for a S106 Agreement and conditions (pp.62-75).

Exeter Civic Society’s response to the consultation was adequately presented in the planning officers’ report with a long extraction from our document, covering all our major concerns, but also what we thought wass positive about the plans. During the meeting our positions were referred to at least 3 times, especially our comments on the high density and the lack of children’s play areas.

Despite the disappointing decision to allow such a tall and dense development, the Society hopes to continue working with the Haven Banks Neighbourhood Group and councillors to monitor future development¬† across the Water Lane area, but also to critically observe and influence what is going to be built at Haven Banks. In the end, old and new residents will have to find together. And the fact that there will be strong management of the site after construction must offer opportunities to make this collaboration work. We hope that the developer and owner of the new buildings will be managing the site for the long time, as they claimed in their contributions at the meeting. Members of the public, though, counted the times the speaker for the developer used ‘probably’ at the same time. We can only hope this is not a bad omen.