Update from @DevonCC on #SWExeter Park & Ride

I’ve had a update from Devon County Council to summarise the current position, which I post unedited – I trust this is helpful…

The County Council maintains that there is a strong case for a Park and Ride site (with opportunities to Park and Cycle, Park and CarShare) at the interchange of the A30/A377; however, we took a decision to pause and re-evaluate the alternative options as we may at some point need to demonstrate why no other alternative site is suitable. We have always been clear that the site must be within the vicinity of this junction because it will attract people from both the A30 and A38 directions, therefore our assessment included sites within 500m of the junction. Outside of this range and traffic is expected to find it too remote and there would also be substantially increased revenue costs associated with running bus services to the facility.

I’ve set out below some of our reasons for proceeding with pre-application discussions on the basis of the ’round field’ site…

Environmental
There are a number of challenges in delivering a Park and Ride facility on the Oaklands site, which is part of the Alphin Brook Conservation Area and Valley Park.

Whilst we believe that there are opportunities to sensitively design the site to minimise landscape/visual impacts and enhance the park with additional planting and new improved routes, it remains a sensitive issue amongst the local community and key stakeholders, including English Heritage.

The Round Field site is part of an Area of Great Landscape Value; however, is an isolated field located between the A30, which runs directly alongside one edge of the field and the road that leads to Ide (it is largely out of view from this approach). Although a raised site, we believe that with appropriate planting, the impacts from long distance views can be minimised.

Accessibility
Given the busy nature of Alphington Road, in order to serve the Oaklands site there would need to be significant junction works to introduce signals and also address the level changes between Alphington Road and the site itself. Furthermore, at some places, a 4 lane-wide carriageway would be needed to provide for an inbound bus lane, an inbound all-traffic lane, an outbound traffic lane and an outbound right turn lane into the P&R. This would require loss of the screen of trees running along Alphington Road and would be costly in engineering terms.

The round field site, by comparison, is served off a less busy road and could be accessed by a simple roundabout junction. A junction in this location may also have the benefit of slowing speeds for traffic exiting the A30 and heading towards Ide.

In the morning peaks, traffic exiting the A30 (and turning right towards the city) can queue in lane 2 on the slip road.

Similarly, traffic exiting the A30 (from Okehampton) queues in lane 1 on the slip road.

The Park and Ride traffic would be able to use the comparatively empty lanes towards Ide to bypass the queues and gain easy access to the facility.

There would still be plans to create an inbound bus lane but this would make Alphington Road only 3 lanes wide and could retain the screen of trees along its length, therefore minimising the environmental impacts.

There is scope to improve cycle routes from the round field site towards the city centre as there is a route under the A30 adjacent to it.

There is also potential to improve walking and cycling routes to local communities, offering opportunities for residents to interchange with a frequent and direct bus service to the city centre.

Size
Our most recent assessment concluded that a 600-space P&R facility would be sufficient based on predicted demand; however, the ’round field’ site was previously rejected on the basis of a 900-space car park. Our assessment suggests approximately 600 spaces could be accommodated at the round field site and therefore should not be discounted as an option for being ‘too small’.

Cost
Both the County Council and District Councils have less funding directly available to them and there are significant demands on Community Infrastructure Levy, therefore it is important that we find a solution that delivers best value for money.

There were significant costs associated with the Oaklands Site, namely the need to raise the site by 1 metre in order to achieve satisfactory drainage and the highway works described above under ‘Accessibility’.

Although a full cost assessment has not been carried out for the ’round field’ site, the fewer environmental constraints and ‘simplified’ highway works would suggest it could be delivered at a reduced cost to the Oaklands site.

We are planning to host a public consultation at West Exe School between 4pm and 8pm on 21st July, where there will of course be opportunities to ask officers questions about the proposals.

#EXcouncil | @ExeterCouncil Budget speech by @ExeterLabour’s @CllrPeteEdwards

Work commitments meant that I’m in Hexham as the special meeting of Exeter City Council set the Budget – and so I missed the “State of the Union” address by the Leader, Cllr Pete Edwards.

The minutes of that meeting will outline what Pete said in his Budget speech, but no worries – I received a copy of what he said

Leader’s Budget Speech
24 February 2015

Lord Mayor, I hold out this Vision for Our Future (Exeter Vision…Our City, Our Future, Exeter Vision Partnership, 2003) to remind us all of the journey we have been on as a city for over a decade, to remind everyone that this city has enjoyed the highest level of growth of productivity of any city in this country and we do not shy of taking difficult decisions.

The city centre is the engine of our local economy and requires disciplined action over the long course to ensure we continue to do what is necessary to direct investment in the city centre.

I am committed to delivering a swimming pool and leisure complex on the Bus and Coach Station site in line with our Corporate Plan and previous decisions taken by this Council.

We continue to work with Crown Estates to deliver a comprehensive redevelopment that will ensure Exeter remains the destination of choice by investors.

The Budget

Turning now to the Budget, I would like to again remind Members, Officers and the wider public that reductions in Central Government funding are amongst the most severe cuts we have faced in living memory. The Council has contented with a 15.6% reduction in Government Formula Grant in setting the budget for 2015/16 and will have to completely reshape itself in order to deliver these ad the additional £3m worth of savings required over the next few years.

An ambitious Council

In spite of this, we are still an ambitious Council and are determined to ensure that the City achieves its potential and our residents receive quality services. We continue to support the City, ensuring it is at the forefront of economic recovery and have supported the delivery of:
– 3,468 new homes since 2011-12 – more that any other district in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay – earning the Council £10.2m in New Homes Bonus
– Since 01 April 2014, 64 affordable homes have been delivered with 235 further affordable homes consented and in the pipeline for national house builders
– 20 new Council homes will be completed by June 2015, with a further 26 under construction for completion later in the year.

The Economy

Last year the Chamber of Commerce reported the highest increase in business confidence. This is reflected in strong performance in the property market, both commercial and housing, the visitor economy, and investment in the city centre.

Over the previous tow years:
– visitors to Exeter have increased by 10.3%
– visitor spend has increased by 14.31%

Plans for the redevelopment of the Guildhall Shopping Centre are full-steam ahead, and we have seen new companies such as Jamie’s Italian, Byron Burger, etc moving into Exeter.

There has been a significant increase in demand for industrial units and a number of large car showrooms have committed themselves to the new Matford Green Business park.

The amount of secondhand office accommodation has shrunk by a half. Indeed, we are now hearing from the property sector that we will have a shortage of supply, such is the demand for accommodation.

It is also important that we recognise the scale of investment that continues that continues to be made in the city by the University of Exeter, the most recent example being the Living Systems building, a £52m capital investment on the University campus.

The most significant investment over the year has been the decision by the Met office to invest over £100m in the new Supercomputer at Exeter Science park. This will be a tremendous boost to our local economy and will mean the early opening-up of the Science Park.

There are a number of other investments that are being made at the Science Park on the back of this decision, and with the support of the Local Enterprise Partnership.

As members will be aware we are investors in the Science Park hub and we play an important part in the Exeter & Heart of Devon Growth Board which administers funding and steers the strategic projects.

On a more local level, we are supporting the development of a local currency – the Exeter Pound – to support local small businesses and independent traders. It is anticipated that the organisation and the currency will be up and running by September 2015 in time for PWC 2015.

As the economy grows we face a shortage of workers in the construction sector. To address this ECC, EDDC and MDDC are due to sign a Construction Skills Concordat. The Concordat will ensure that when the Councils award contracts for capital programme and maintenance work, they give favourable consideration to those companies that have a clear and well evidenced approach to supporting the development of a skilled workforce – for example, in terms of taking on apprentices and recruiting locally. We will work with partners to support the roll-out of the Construction Industry Training Board’s Client-Based Approach.

We wil continue to offer apprentices, develop work experience for those with disabilities, mental health problems and other barriers to work, and work with employers to expand these schemes.

We have 8 apprentices working across the Council and we have appointed 2 apprentices into full-time employment.

Flood Protection Scheme

As a Council, we have also invested in the infrastructure of the city; we have contributed the £3m promised towards the £32m flood defence scheme.

Sport…and the Rugby World Cup

Turning now to a sporting theme, I am sure everybody will share with me in singling out for praise for Jo Pavey this year for her outstanding achievements, and as a fitting tribute we have completed the improvements to Exeter Arena with a completely new running track.

Sticking with the sporting theme, the Rugby World Cup 2015 will be a major event for the city and something we can be proud of.

It is estimated that Exeter being a Host City will generate an extra £39m of economic activity for the city. The city is expected to welcome an additional 120,000 visitors to the city for the duration of of the Rugby World Cup [Source: Ernst & Young]

What members may be less aware of is the work that is going on to build a legacy programme fro the event.

Already this has seem the establishment of a women’s team and recently the holding of a rugby empowering and employment programme.

I am also delighted by the decision of the RFU to host the 7-a-side European Region tournament at Sandy Park on 11 & 12 July.

All bodes well for our local economy. Indeed, Exeter’s economy continues to go from strength to strength, and the momentum of growth we have worked so hard to keep going has now firmly taken hold.

Health & Wellbeing Board

A key part of the legacy work is increasing activity to make Exeter the most active city in the South West. We are working with the Exeter Health & Wellbeing board and other partners to increase levels of physical activity in the city, and to promote the sustainable use of the river, canal, and other green spaces for outdoor leisure activities. Last summer saw a highly successful Ping! Exeer project in the city.

Energy Saving Measures 

We continue to work hard to invest in projects that will reduce our revenue running costs without affecting frontline services, and have begun the programme of delivering £4m worth of energy saving projects using solar panels on our buildings and car aprks, along with replacing inefficient boilers and lighting in our offices.

These projects will deliver tangible savings without affecting frontline service delivery.

Looking to the future

I think it is important that I single out the recent initiative we have taken with the leaders of Teignbridge and East Devon District Councils to develop greater collaboration between us for the sake of the greater Exeter area.

This is a strategic partnership that offers a better way going forward to plan for our economy and I am sure greater collaboration will be the call from National Government of whichever party forms the next Government.

For next year’s Budget we have made another £1.4m of savings to the revenue cost of the Council by a combination of restructuring and efficiency savings. We have again managed to achieve this without a reduction in frontline services but this will be evermore challenging over the next four years.

Conclusion

Finally Lord Mayor, Councillors – the Budget that I am proposing to you this evening aims to deliver the necessary savings,  and to protect and maintain as far as possible the services which the citizens of Exeter need most. I therefore propose to you the recommendation set out in the papers before you in terms og the approval of both the revenue estimates and the capital programme for the year 2015-16.

This will result in the setting of a District Council Tax of £135.05 for a Band D property, an increase of 1.99% over the previous year, an equivalent of £2.63 per year, or 5p per week. This will mean we will still have the lowest District Council Tax in Devon.

I so move

Pulling my finger out on the untreated weeds that are in abundance throughout Cowick

I’ve been contacted by a a resident about a number of issues, including the untreated weeds that are in abundance throughout Cowick.

While I am in the mood possibly someone can tell me exactly what my council tax is spent on ?

This year the council “forgot” to spray the weeds on the edges of the roads and when they finally remembered they announced it was too late to do it this year.

He concludes  “it is about time our representatives pulled your collective fingers out and started doing what you were elected for.”

This is what we have been doing about the weeds
As ever, this is a Devon County Council  issue in their remit as Highways Authority.

Although ECC do the actual spraying, they do it on behalf of DCC.

So it wasn’t ECC who forgot to treat the weeds, it was DCC who forgot to send the official order.

Without he official paperwork from County officers, ECC do not get paid.

And that it  in turns means means more pressure on the other services ECC delivers on your behalf.

It might surprise you that only 8% of your Council Tax paid to ECC remains with ECC – that’s a round £2.50 a week for a Band D propoerty. The balance goes to DCC, Devon & Cornwall Police, and Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service.