Category Archives: News

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.


March Community Meet Up – a few notes

Shelly shares the backstory to the newly refurbished Village Hall









Some of the challenges Community Associations/Organisations face

  •  adopting local phone boxes
  • running a community centre – its management can suck resources leaving little time for the community üüü (Pinhoe have a community hub and a community Association, in St David’s there is the St David’s neighbourhood partnership and the Exeter Community Centre Trust)
  • acquiring a new community building
  • involving a diverse community üü – how to consult and young people – identifying needs and involvement
  • handovers when people leave e.g. leases and managing ongoing responsibilities
  • measure impact
  • engaging students who are transient
  • how to engage other community groups
  • help to set up and promoting what we do
  • growth of communities – new development

Feedback on Parks and opens spaces strategy development to ECC

  • needs to integrate into everyday activity
  • how will it link to Exeter’s Community Strategy?
  • have a round table discussion on parks and open spaces – informal and in depth
  • start with ‘what we like’
  • how does air quality consultation feed into this?
  • and relate to other strategies?
  • how to involve those who find it hard to be active? How does it rely on those who can’t get round easily?
  • how to be involved in the strategy drafting – with community organisations?
  • youth strategy – tie to this activity and involvement in design and implementation
  • land ownership – kept in public ownership – a community land trust? to hold land in perpetuity and generate income?
  • definition of a green space – what’s involved? – gardens? evaluation of trees – what do we have?
  • access to green spaces – increasing restrictions e.g. Ducks Meadow, university and developers are closing access and parking restriction
  • Transport, consistent polices on issues e.g. permissions by both Council e.g. memorial benches need to be consistently applied
  • Need reply to emails and access to information and permissions – names contacts would be helpful
  • no green space is ‘pinched’ until there is a policy for the area – developers think they have rights over any green space
  • new estates – how to mobilise community to look at it and communication
  • income generation to be financially viable – look at case studies e.g. NESTA
  • events and café on Parks
  • heritage features in parks and gardens are important.

Can you lend an ear for the Big Listen Summer 2017?

“This summer we are planning, as part of the Wellbeing Exeter project, to carry out listenings with residents across Exeter to find out what people love about their community and what they do to look after their wellbeing.

We want to know about what people get up to; groups that people belong to; activities that people engage with and to find out what they value about their community.

We are going to do this by recruiting Community Listeners who will engage with people by going to community events and in to public spaces such as parks. They will set up pop-up listening posts and organise games and activities to encourage people to talk to them.

We are looking for people who are comfortable with striking up conversations with people from all walks of life and are interested in people and their communities. We will provide training and support with this role.

The days and hours for the roles are flexible according to when things are happening in the community. The Community Listeners will work in pairs and be supported by our Community Builders Team. We are interested in hearing from individuals or community groups who may wish to take up the opportunity to generate some income for their group.

For individuals, if this is something that you feel would be of interest then please send a CV and covering letter to For Community Groups please send a letter explaining what you are about, how you are organised and how you would be able to help with the Big Listen.

Read the Listener role job descritpion here: Listener role

If you are unsure and would like further information then please call or text Carole Pilley on 07821 475604″

New home for Exeter Green Partnership worker

Stella Cahill has joined Exeter Community Initiatives as the Exeter Green Partnership Project Worker. This is a continuation of the role started with Exeter Parks Watch to promote community engagement in community parks and green spaces. Stella has been working with a number of groups across the city and supporting the It’s Your Neighbourhood project in Exeter.

We have to thank Sue Lawrence and Exeter Park Watch for getting communities more active in looking after parks and open spaces.  ECI is keen to involve more community groups in the Green Partnership to share skills, ideas and resources. We will looking at dates at the end of May to follow up the meeting in February of community groups involved in looking after green spaces

Stella can be contacted on

To find out more about the Exeter Green Partnership visit: or follow via Facebook or Twitter @_ExeterGreen

March news

Newsletter to ECF members on 3rd March 2107

A reminder that the next meeting of the Exeter Community Forum is next week Tuesday 7th March 7-8.30pm at Sylvania Hall!

Mincinglake Country Park, Exeter, off Stoke Hill almost opposite the bottom of Collins Road. EX4 7DR see

“Making sense of the new big picture and what it might mean for communities”

We will be joined by Jill Day from Exeter City Council’s Planning team, she’ll explain about the ‘Greater Exeter Strategic Partnership’ being set up by Teignbridge, Mid-Devon, East Devon and Exeter Councils to put together a new land use plan for these areas until 2040. Jill will also explain how this process relates to the current land use plan in Exeter.

We will look at how communities be involved in the new planning process?  You can find out more about the draft statement of community involvement here. You don’t have to be an expert on planning just be able to talk about your community’s experience of planning. Please let me know who from your organisation will be attending.

Exeter a young people friendly City!  Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, Exeter Community Forum and  other partners have researched the needs and aspirations of young people aged 10-25 in the Exeter area, and have identified some clear priorities  to make Exeter a great place to live and work for its young residents.REad the report here and let know if someone from your organisation will join the launch event at Exeter Guildhall on Wednesday 22nd March, 6pm-9pm.

Community Builders update! Some 20 people turned out on a cold and blowy night to join the Community Builders Q&A meeting. Thank you! We’ve put the notes up here and added in some data sets too. ECC planning  department will provide information about the location of new housing developments – which I’ll post when I get them. Remember: The deadline for applications is 12 noon on 20th March

We’re delighted that Polsloe Community Association has been reestablished. The ECF steering group have approved their request for full membership of the Forum. Welcome!

If you applied for a free TEDx community ticket – well done! There are one or two unclaimed tickets. So if someone from your community organisation would like an Exeter City Council sponsored tickets for 21st April at the University Alumini to see live streamed Ted x! (Including lunch!) Then contact Dawn – quick!

Last, but certainly not least, we have written a few words to remember Cllr Paul  Bull who has contributed so much to the work of communities and the Exeter Community Forum.
I look forward to seeing you next week.

Paul Bull – living out cooperative values

Sadly, Councillor Paul Bull passed away on Sunday 19th February 2017.

Paul was the Labour and Cooperative Councillor for St Thomas and Portfolio Holder and Lead Councillor for Communities and Culture.

Paul was true to the co-operative values he cared about – shown by his deep commitment to community action.  Paul encouraged and supported the range of community initiatives – from small scale community composting, tree planting to the development of community associations, sports groups and community enterprises.

Paul believed in a ‘bottom up approach’, listening to community associations, many frustrated by the planning system. Cormac Russell has said that community development can only take place at the speed of trust. Paul’s integrity enabled that trust to grow in Exeter.

Paul’s patient leadership paid off – bringing Councillor and officer colleagues together with community organisations to form the Community Forum and agree a community strategy. Not just a document – but a joint commitment to the value of relationships and community action in our diverse communities and working out together what that means in practice.

A pleasure to work with, a valued community leader, an encourager and enabler.

We thank you.


ECF February newsletter

Sent to ECF full and associate members on 7th February 2017:

This is a bit of a bumper newsletter – about Community Builders, ECF’s next meeting about the Council’s new plans for planning, Grass Roots Grants a meeting about Green Spaces and  *free* tickets for Ted X… so time for a strong cup of tea and a read!

Community Builders

After a lot of deliberation and talking with others the Steering Group have put together a detailed plan for deploying a team of Community Builders across the City.

Find out everything you need to know is here and the pages under that heading.

Get your community involved, speak to other community groups in your area and express your interest in a community builder for your neighbourhood!

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on 20th March

There will be a Community Builders Questions & Answers on 23rd February 7:30 – 9:00pm at Newcourt Community Center, Blakeslee Drive, The Rydons, Exeter, EX2 7FN
Please let us know if you can come – and what your question is!

Next meeting of Exeter Community Forum:
“Making sense of the new big picture and what it might mean for communities”Tuesday 7th March 7-8.30pm at Sylvania Hall

Mincinglake Country Park, Exeter, off Stoke Hill almost opposite the bottom of Collins Road. EX4 7DR see

The ‘Greater Exeter Strategic Partnership’ is being set up by Teignbridge, Mid-Devon, East Devon and Exeter to put together a new land use plan for these areas until 2040. We’re asking how should communities be involved in the new plan? 

For more information and the Council’s draft statement of community involvement see the website:

We will also look at the emerging Community Builders plan. If there’s any other issues you’d like on the agenda please let me know.

Grass Roots Grants

The new grants panel considered the first round of grants – not an easy job! The panel’s recommendations are now going through Exeter City Council’s decision making processes.

Details of the grants rounds for 2017 will be announced and the information on the website updated before the end of February. Thank you to people who provided feedback on our first round.

As a member of the Forum please do encourage other community organisations in your area to apply for funds. There will be a special round in the autumn for larger capital grants. We are especially interested to see joint applications from community organisations working with larger organisations to run projects or deliver services together. Please look at the different programmes and criteria carefully. See:  Celebrating Exeter’s Green Spaces

Thursday 16th February 18:00 – 20:00 Co-lab, Wat Tyler House

Exeter Green Partnership (on behalf of Exeter Parks Watch) and Exeter CVS would like to invite you to a networking event to celebrate the groups who look after the green spaces in Exeter. Details here:
Please  RSVP to Stella  by Friday 10th February

TEDx FREE tickets for the community – 21st April

Exeter City Council has kindly sponsored 20 tickets at the University Alumini to see live streamed Ted x! Each ticket is valued at £20 each which includes lunch! There is the opportunity to win up to two tickets for each Exeter Community Forum member. Please send in the name of your representative(s), (sorry, not councillors) and the name of your organisation to by 1st March. All the names will be put in Dawn’s large hat to be picked out at random.