Exeter’s green ridgeline is one of our city’s most precious assets. You can be in the bustling city centre one minute and walking through rural lanes and fields and humming valley parks the next. From almost anywhere you can look up and see a calming sea of green; it is one of the things I love most about living here.
Yet, for years, our precious green urban boundary has been under threat by development. Green fields offer developers an irresistible opportunity to make significant profits on houses that can be built for a fraction of the cost, time and effort required by brownfield development. Developers are aided in this by a planning system – set by national government – that is tilted in favour of development, and by centrally-imposed housing quotas that local authorities must meet.
However, the tide is turning. Last month, following over a year of campaigning by residents and labour councillors, the planning committee unanimously refused a housing development next to Mincinglake Park. This is the latest of a series of victories against greenfield development, including the unanimous refusal of housing next to Celia Crescent in October 2021 and the upholding of the Pennsylvania Road refusal at appeal earlier this year.
Exeter Labour recognises that protecting our green spaces is essential for both environmental and social justice. Our trees and fields are vital in responding to our climate and ecological crises, from supporting biodiversity, to absorbing carbon emissions, and mitigating flood risk.
Council leader, Cllr Phil Bialyk said: “I am totally committed to saving the hills around Exeter, as I have said. They are so important to us. It is an important amenity space. We have to protect it for the residents of Exeter.”
At the same time, nature is a sanctuary for people. The connection between greenspace and mental and physical wellbeing is well documented and was never so apparent as during COVID-19. The pandemic also underscored deep socio-economic inequalities in accessing nature, with low-income families and those from ethnic minority backgrounds far more likely to live in green-deprived areas.
We know that protecting locally-accessible green spaces is critical to achieving all our ambitions for the city, from becoming Net Zero by 2030, to supporting active and healthy lifestyles, and building inclusive communities.
That is why Labour Councillors and Candidates are committed to doing whatever we can to steer development away from our green hills. Through our Liveable Exeter programme, we can pursue a sustainable vision for brownfield development that will deliver the high-quality, affordable housing our city needs without destroying biodiversity, increasing car-dependency and isolating residents from each other and the natural world. A cleaner, greener future is possible, and I can see it on the horizon.
Article by Naima Allcock
Labour Candidate for Mincinglake and Whipton