Category Archives: community planning

Exeter Community Strategy update report September 2018

2018 Update Report on Exeter Community Strategy

The Exeter Community Strategy, adopted by the Council has been an important consensus between the Council and Community Organisations designed to underpin community-led development in the city for ten years from 2016.

To “provide a way for the community to take the lead, build its capacity to own and manage assets, work with partners, and fund and deliver initiatives and services. It is based on a statement of principles of community-led development to which partners are invited to sign up, and will embody openness and accountability in all its activities.”

 Purpose of the report: To provide an update on Exeter City Council’s progress on delivering the Exeter Community Strategy


In 2014, co-operation between community-led groups engaged in the planning process met with Exeter City Council.  In early 2015, Exeter City Council decided the neighbourhood CIL should be spent on developing and implementing a community-level strategy for addressing the demands of development, endorsing a ‘bottom-up’ asset based community development approach, noting that community groups had undertaken to engage with others across the city regarding a process for allocating the neighbourhood CIL.

The Exeter Community Forum was set up to enable community associations to meet formally with other organisations, alongside local councillors, to promote community-led development and oversee the implementation of the Exeter Community Strategy which the Council adopted in March 2016.

In particular, the Council tasked the Forum to play an active role in allocation of the neighbourhood portion of the Community Infrastructure Levy (“the neighbourhood CIL”).  The neighbourhood portion of the total  CIL receipts over the next 10 years is approximately £3.75 million.  Executive approved the ring fencing of these funds for implementing the Exeter Community Strategy at its 10 February 2015 meeting.  The Council also agreed that £150,000 of New Homes Bonus funding be used over the next 2-3 years to support capacity building work with community groups across the city that require investment to enable them to access the CIL neighbourhood funding in future years.

Since 2015 the Council and Forum have met together through a Steering Group and meetings of the Forum to progress an agreed annual workplan informed by the Community Strategy.

Commitments by the Council

Exeter City council have committed to a shared vision and a statement of principles of community-led development.  The strategy promotes community-led development- a way of strengthening civil society by reflecting the importance of the views and actions of communities, when making policy and delivering actions. It “empowers local communities, by increasing the capacity of people as active citizens, through their community groups, organisations and networks, and  Institutions and agencies (public, private and non-governmental) to work in dialogue with citizens to shape and determine change in their communities.” This is further explained in the strategy.  The Council has since stated its commitment to ‘asset based community development’.

The strategy’s approach reflects four ambitions:

  1. Strategy should be community-led throughout its life, and change as the city, and the people and communities within it, change. To ensure this happens, it will be important that there is a mechanism to ensure communication between organisations in communities across the city. The Exeter Community Forum has been established for this purpose, and it is recommended that the Forum continue to operate to enable it to oversee progress on, and propose changes to, the strategy as they are needed.
  2. To increase the confidence and capacity of community organisations to develop their own activities, and secure funding for them beyond any grant made under one of the programmes in this strategy.
  3. To complement other investment taking place across the city, either directly, by providing match funding for key initiatives that help to achieve the strategy aims, or indirectly, by supporting a complementary initiative. An example of this is supporting community organising; the organisers who are recruited may well help people access initiatives supported by other investment streams in the city
  4. To stimulate joint commitment. Part of this comes from encouraging dialogue and joint activity between organisations and agencies working within each community, sometimes in the same building.

Update on progress – to be read in conjunction with the community strategy.

Programme 1: Supporting community plans

A ‘community plan’ identifies local problems and opportunities, sets out an achievable and long-term vision for the future, and prepares a plan of action to achieve it. Provides a framework for delivering activity which the community has developed. It can also assist authorities in service delivery and decision-making, including by forming a material consideration for planning purposes. Community plans can be developed as formal ‘ Neighbourhood Plans’ recognised as part of the planning system.

“The programme will pay for a community planning facilitator who will help communities, particularly those which have the greatest need, to prepare and produce plans and offer capacity building support and training. The facilitator may be hosted by a community organisation, to act as a central resource covering the whole city. The programme’s output will be six community plans in development or completed by March 2019.”


  1. The role of community and neighbourhood plans have been informally discussed at a meeting with the Director for Communities, Head of Planning, (then) Chair of planning committee, Portfolio Holder for Communities and Sport, the Director and the ECF Chair in July 2017.  Such plans not only help communities themselves to identify and respond to local need but also complement data gathered by councils and council programmes and were included in the Sport England bid.

The framework was agreed in principle, with some amendments required, but requires follow up for wider discussion with councillors and Community Groups.  See appendix 1. To enable such plans come into being support and funds are required.

Once  the role of such plans and support needs understood for their development by communities, then a programme of support and funding can be agreed and delivered.   The implementation of this programme is yet to progress.

  1. ECF have responded formally to the GESP statement ( April 2017) of community involvement making recommendation for improvements and how communities might be involved in the process. An informal response has been given but no formal response has been received. The informal response included an invitation to contribute feedback from community organisations in Exeter and the GESP programme develops. Information about the timetable was promised so that input can be made in a timely fashion.

Programme 2: Supporting community action

Community action is at the heart of community-led development. This programme will promote it through:

  1. Supporting community organising.

ECF worked with community organisations to engage in the development of the community builders programme. Identifying areas that actively wanted to work with a community builder and those areas with less capacity that might especially benefit from such work. Considerable time and energy went into ensuring the programme integrated with Wellbeing Exeter and the community connectors.

In March 2018 the Executive agreed to expand community building so that all wards would have access to a community connector and community builder, funded by an increased allocation of CIL.

The programme implementation has been significantly delayed however, the programme is now being led by ECI and community organisations are still very keen on the programme and to be involved.

The Chair of the Community Forum was invited to be on Wellbeing Exeter, however she felt it would be more appropriate for a community member from one of the local support groups, to be established in each area, to join to provide some input from a volunteer perspective. This requires action by Wellbeing Exeter.

As the programme becomes established there needs to be discussion and agreement about how community support groups/and community organisations connect with the work of their local community builder.

 2Supporting community initiatives.

Grass Roots Grants:

The council and the community forum have worked together to adopt a terms of reference, agreed by the Council, for all sorts of local Community Organisations to apply for grants funded by the CIL. The grants panel is made up of Councillors and Community advocates nominated by ECF members and chaired by the ECF Chair. This brings together a wide range of expertise and insights to the panel and providing capacity building experience for those on the panel. The members of the grant panel received training from a Councillor on best practice in making grants decisions.

It was agreed by the ECF Steering Group that community members from ECF member organisations would undertake peer review to monitor and evaluate the impact of the awarded grants in order to provide extra capacity to the Communities Team and provide important peer learning opportunities. 20 community members have signed up. However, the implementation of this has not been progressed.

Most of the grants have been smaller revenue grants and one round focused on larger sums to invest in community buildings. The grants process and panels have worked very well and all grant recommendations have been approved by the Council Executive and full Council.


The process has been open, fully accountable and transparent and the Council’s internal audit did not identify any problems with the governance of the Grass Roots Grants. The Council earlier this year changed the terms of reference of the grants panel without any discussion with the Exeter Community Forum. The ECF Steering Group have not reviewed these changes, nor been invited to do so.

 Programme 3: Supporting community collaboration

 “This programme will be delivered through a community collaboration fund. The fund will, so far as resources permit: 1. Focus on community capacity-building,  2. Include funding for work which tests new approaches.  3. support joint activity among community organisations, or between community organisations and local authorities or other agencies, and 4. be accessible to partners who have signed up to the principles of community-led development.”

ECF has contributed to Exeter Board and Health and Wellbeing Board and to city wide initiatives including: The Exeter Youth Strategy, Wellbeing Exeter.

No joint initiatives have been developed or funded under this programme. However, the following should be noted:

  1. Of particular relevance is the youth strategy’s priority to enable greater youth participation in their local areas and Community Associations are keen to be involved in this area of work. ECF members  have begun some discussions about this which can be built on to enable greater youth participation in local matters and also local community organisations.
  2. There is clear interest in developing joint initiatives and contributing to strategy and policy making, especially in the area of parks and open spaces, but there is currently no clear mechanism within the Council to enable community contributions.


Community Asset Transfer:  A commitment was made at a Scrutiny committee meeting in 2016 for Exeter city council to introduce a community asset transfer policy. A very successful workshop was run at the November 2017 conference with the City Surveyor. such a policy will be able to clarify the basis and process for asset transfers setting our the expectations and protections required for each side. Relevant resource have been sent to the Council. We are waiting to hear how and when the policy will be developed.

Training/learning events: The Council/ ECF have run two successful Community conferences/training events, attended by councillors and community volunteers. The most recent (November 2017) in conjunction with the Network of Wellbeing, the Eden project communities team and Exeter City Futures. Topics included fundraising, transferring assets from councils to communities, how to collect and use evidence to build community, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), legal structures.

Network meetings: The Community forum has met on a regular basis to progress the items in this report and identify capacity building needs and provide valuable networking opportunities between community organisations and Councillors. Community organisations have expressed an interest in contributing to relevant Council polices and strategies  – the process  for this is not especially clear and clarification and discussion about how this can be achieved  would be welcome.

Collaboration among community organisations: There has been an ongoing and increasing interest in how community associations (based on localities), can work with organisations of  communities of interest and communities of identity. In particular to ensure that initiatives with different groups can dovetail.  We are at early stages here.

Crowdfunding: The Chair spent some time contributing to discussions about the development of a crowdfunding site for Exeter with Spacehive – this developed into Exeter City Futures crowdfunding page. Since then Devon County council and the District Council have set up a separate crowdfunding initiative, so the task in the community strategy has been achieved by others.

see:  Crowdfunding

Appendix 1: draft framework for community/neighbourhood planning.

DRAFT Enabling Communities in Exeter to get involved in Planning.

This document provides a framework for developing the Exeter Community Strategy’Programme 1: Supporting Community Plans.’[1]

“A community plan identifies local problems and opportunities, sets out an achievable and long term vision for the future, and prepares a plan of action to achieve it.  It is crucial to community-led development, because it provides a framework for delivering activity which the community has developed. It can also assist authorities in service delivery and decision-making, including by forming a material consideration for planning purposes.”

Name of Plan What’s the purpose of the plan? Any  legal status? ECC support  response &  use of plan Community Role Resources and examples locally
Neighbour-hood plan A document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area, these planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications Yes. Neighbourhood planning is a right for communities introduced through the Localism Act 2011. The plan becomes part of the Local Plan–2


St James Neighbourhood Plan

Community Plan Communities of interest or geography coming together, and with others, to develop a plan. This plan may cover a number of themes/issues for an area or a theme across a large area/the city.

For example:

community planning for low carbon communities; increasing resilience to the impact of weather and climate change (flooding); to inform the development of a community and the services it needs or change it want to make; themed plans e.g. open spaces.


But could be considered as a material consideration in some planning matters




Topsham community plan;

St Thomas Flood plan

Priory Community plan

Area action plan Small area (ward sized or less) based plan focused on tackling a specific issue, development of a service, economic regeneration of an area or relating to planning and development. No.

But could be adopted by the Council as supplementary planning guidance


Supplementary planning guidance : Development brief for Alphington

Street action plan To agree action in a specific street.

It will bring neighbours and others together to focus on change. It may focus on one or more issues. For example, improving green space, management of rubbish bins, arranging a community event or improving parking arrangements.


 Alongside Neighbourhood Planning a number of other community rights were introduced in the Localism Act 2011, which could be used alongside anyof the pans listed above:


Community Right to Build: is a type of type of Neighbourhood Development Order that  can be used to grant outline or full planning permission for specific development which complies with the order. For example: homes, shops, businesses, affordable housing for rent or sale, community facilities or playgrounds. A Community Right to Build Order is put together by local people who can decide on the type, quantity and design of buildings they want, and in the locations they want them.

Community Right to Bid: Community Right to Bid allows communities (and parish councils) to nominate buildings or land for listing by the local authority as an asset of community value. If the assets comes up for sale, the community can ‘pause’ the sale and take up to six months to find the funding required to buy the asset.

Community Right to Challenge:  The Community Right to Challenge is the right for community organisations to submit an expression of interest in running services of local authority and fire and rescue authorities on behalf of that authority.

Community Right to Reclaim Land: allows communities to challenge local councils and some other public bodies to release their unused and underused land. As land is held on the behalf of the taxpayer, councils have a duty to use it effectively.  The Rights gives communities the power to ensure that they do so.


Our response to the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan Statement of community involvement

Exeter Community Forum held a meeting of members to learn about the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan and talk about the statement of community involvement. Here’s our submission in response:

10th April 2017

Dear Ms Day

Greater Exeter Strategic plan : Statement of community Involvement (GESP SCI)

Thank you for attending  a recent meeting of the Exeter Community Forum. I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Forum to present the issued we talked about for consideration as part of your consultation process.

Good consultation, done to the highest standards, is the proper way for decision-makers to hear the voices of those who will be affected by important proposals. This is of course vital as part of the planning process to enable existing and future communities to shape the communities and areas that will become their homes, work and leisure places.

Exeter Community Forum brings together community organisations to work together and strengthen our communities in Exeter and is a partnership with Exeter City council. Our aims are to:

  1. Give a strong voice for community groups from across the different areas of the City.
  2. Inform the allocation of the neighbourhood portion of the Community Infrastructure Levy accruing from Development in the City and consider other investment needs and opportunities for communities
  3. Give a space for groups to share information and discuss opportunities for collaborative working around the delivery of local services and community assets
  4. Support the creation of a community development strategy for the next five years to strengthen communities, and identify programmes that will best address the development needs of new and existing communities.
  5. To identify common themes and priorities that will help inform decision making about and with communities in the City.
  6. To keep abreast of national policy & initiatives
  7. Communicate with and involve wider communities and key statutory and voluntary/community sector partners in the work of developing a community strategy.

You can see our terms of reference here:

Exeter Community Forum’s full members are community associations or other local fora; many of whom have taken an active part in the planning process over recent years. A list of our full and associate members  can be found here:

We note the principles of consultation advocated by Stephen Sedley QC in the Gunning case:

  • that consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage.
  • that the proposer must give sufficient reasons for any proposal to permit of intelligent consideration and response.
  • that adequate time must be given for consideration and response and, finally,
  • that the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any statutory proposals.

Please find following a note of what we asked our members at our meeting and their responses. It should be noted that the comments from our discussions are based on the experiences of working with and involving communities in the planning process.

From your experience of involving the community and contributing to planning decisions and documents what does Exeter City Council do well and what could they do better?

  • Individual offices really work hard at community / explaining example Paul Jeffreys. They are ‘straight’ with community as is possible for them to be;
  • Exeter City Council produce good documents but their processes are very top down – they need more early public engagement
  • Are we ticking their box?
  • I come from St James…
  • Some more innovative developments not just same old houses built anywhere in the UK; but providing social housing
  • They had workshops with us but not controlling Teignbridge development adequately (in south west Exeter master plan)
  • Genuine consultation not just ticking a box – time, money and resources put into consultation at the appropriate at level appropriate to community
  • people get very concerned when the development gets the go ahead but asking them to think about abstract Concepts at the early stage is a big ask from Exeter City Council but necessary

Does the draft SCI help people to shape the decisions that affect them?

  • Draft says all the right things but at what point will people be consulted – after proposal to have been formulated?
  • Allow who? It doesn’t specify the weight and meanings that will be attributed to responses or how they will be considered alongside other material considerations or what is the reasoning behind a decision.
  • if it says who? How? and when? they will consult but nothing about what they’ll do with the consultation input. Who will acknowledge it? How will progress/uptake of [an] idea be reported? How will we know who’s listening?
  • From experience even if communities get involved they aren’t giving power to shape decisions!
  • Here! Here!! [in response to comment preceding] consultation results need to be discussed with Communities and explanation of why ignored!

Does the draft SCI help people to know what is going on?

  • Yes – if community forums help disseminate information to a local level – this will help people do not read planning documents!
  • Needs to be simplified and dates added
  • Does not give enough information to inspire people to be involved
  • Community groups and organisations can help spread the word about GESP but need resources to do so
  • Only if you are already interested – not in everyday language and looks (arguably) boring to most people
  • Would help to have an approximate timetable with official consultations periods in.
  • Often its only when people/community hit a barrier, that they react. How do we handle that ‘barrier’ in a way that allows a creative involvement of lots of voices. How do we personalise it?
  • Community groups and organisations can help spread the word about GESP but need resources to do so.
  • Need limitations
  • Limited accessibility for anyone with academic limitations?

Does the draft SCI give them an opportunity to seek redress if the process let’s them down?

  • No! No obvious appeal procedure. No points in consultation!
  • it’s my only be possible to seek redress when plans are set before planning inspectors – what opportunity is there for people or organisations to challenge if their points are ignored?
  • No explanation of how to challenge and where to go to. How do people get their rights? Who do the planners consider have a legitimate expectation and what governs them gunning crystal apply – explain them and refer to them!
    Is there going to be a ‘rush’ of planning applications before the GESP?
  • From experience with ‘Topsham Gap’ campaign, it’s not just the draft SCI that doesn’t give Communities the opportunity to seek redress – ultimate power in planning decisions doesn’t lie with the District and City Councils.
  • No just publishing comments is not redress.

In light of the above and the experience of the Exeter Community Forum in the development of the Exeter community strategy we would make the following observations on the draft SCI:

“Involvement will be open to all regardless of gender, faith, race, disability, sexuality, age, rural isolation and social deprivation”

  1. It is that planning necessitates the use of technical and other jargon – however such words should be explained in lay terms and general documentation should be written in a straightforward way (the later point on jargon is noted).
  2. That to ensure fuller participation by such groups the methods of consultation needs consideration for example a meeting in a town hall in the town centre is not likely to be an effective means to enable participation from a broad section of the community.

“We will undertake consultation when the plan is still at a formative stage”

  1. People need to have confidence that plans may be influenced, so where pre-determined preferences are included these should be identified.

“We will choose consultation processes by balancing cost and time constraints, and our level of discretion on the outcome”

  1. This is an unwelcome top down approach.
  2. Consultations processes should be discussed and agreed in advance with community bodies; and objectives, processes and budgets agreed with them. These should be publically stated.
  3. Community organisations should be funded to facilitate such processes where they are better placed to do so than the local authority.
  4. That as part of this process discussions are held between the Council and strategic community infrastructure organisations in each district to share the GESP objectives and discuss how they might cooperate to enable and improve community  involvement in the planning process, bearing in mind the differing contexts and experiences in each district and lack of formal collaboration across the GESP area by community organisations on planning matters.

“Consultation publications will be clear and concise and avoid unnecessary jargon, without understating the complexities of any decision.”

  1. We agree. The decision making process should be set out explain who and how the decision will be made including any significant criteria which may not be subject to consultation.

“They will give sufficient reasons and information to allow an informed response. Enough time (usually 6 weeks) will be given for responses.”

  1. An indicative timetable overall for the process and key decision points should be set out.
  2. Within the stages a minimum of 6 weeks should set, especially considering the scope and spread of the communities in the GESP area a longer timetable might be needed.
  3. Prior to any formal consultation period informal work is undertaken with community organisations to consider how best involve  communities in the consultation process if not already done so.

“Responses will be considered conscientiously”

  1. It is not clear by whom or how ‘conscientious consideration’ will happen,
  2. What will happen or what process for redress is there if there is significant disagreement or if the respondent feels they have not been treated conscientiously?
  3. How will responses be made? To the individual respondent (as the NHS does) or collated and shared publically, or both?


“We will inform people who respond to consultations of later stages”

  1. This is welcome;
  2. Are new contributors welcome and how will they be able to find out what has happened to date?

 “Who we will consult”

  1. The ‘weighting’ of any contributions are not set out. For example:
    • if a community organisation facilitates a community response to the process – is this more or less significant than that of a individual, or a third party with no local knowledge?
    • How are the views of existing communities that adjoin future communities to be considered. Especially where there may be more than one existing community – i.e. two or more distinct communities eihter side of a new proposed development?;
    • How the views of communities either side of a district boundary will be treated – as they may have very differing views on a new neighbouring development.
  2. That the value and importance and role of community plans and neighbourhood plans as part of this process is clarified by Exeter City Council in light of the experience in St James.

“How we will consult”

“We will contact appropriate organisations and individuals directly” & “We will consider organising or supporting consultation events such as public exhibitions”

  1. This is welcome, however what does ‘appropriate’ mean and who decides?
  2. The process of consultation should be set out in advance and discussed with others – see points,5,6 & 7 above.
  3. There are a range of creative and participative events that can be run other than exhibitions – which are very passive. Established means include planning for real, charrettes etc etc.

“Consultation documents will be made available for download on the Council’s websites and on the GESP website ( and will be available for purchase at a price reflecting publication costs”

  1. We assume that there will be no charge for community organisations and no charge to download documents.
  2. Documents should be available in accessible formats as required and no charge should be made where documents are required in accessible formats.

“We will publish comments received or a summary as soon as feasible.”

  1. As part of each consultation stage what will happen to comments should be set out at the beginning

“We will explain how these comments have been taken into account when decisions are taken “

  1. The decision making process should be set out explaining who and how the decision will be made including any significant criteria which may not be subject to consultation.

“After considering the initial consultation responses we will consult on the Draft Greater Exeter Strategic Plan”

  1. This will need a detailed consultation phase, certainly longer than 6 weeks – maybe in stages, since I imagine that a wide range of views will be received, before the final plan can be developed.
  2. It is not clear who ‘We’ is: is this each district Council, Devon County Council or another body that is overseeing the process?

In addition to the above one of members has bought the work of NHS consultation to our attention. Supported by Health Watch Devon the following statement of community involvement has been developed which sets out simply but in a fuller and more specific way an approach to consultation. Although focusing on Health services this could be a helpful guide for improving the GESP SCI

Exeter Community Forum would be willing to provide further comment on any revision made to the SCI.

Yours sincerely

Diana Moore


Exeter Community Forum