Northern Hills Campaign

The campaign begins HERE > Trees, hedges and fields along the top of Pinhoe are full of history, from Armada Beacons to Saxon Hoards and battle sites. They’re a network for wildlife and safeguard biodiversity in bramble-wild spaces.

Cheynegate Lane, tracking along the boundary fringe, is a magnificent holloway and one of the very few remaining (almost) intact in Pinhoe. Along its edges you can trace evidence of the Crackington Formation: deep time geology connecting all the way to the Jurassic coast, with resources of clay famously exploited by Pinhoe’s Brickworks.

The top of the village has magnificent views of the Exe estuary, which often surprise visitors from the rest of the city. When the wind blows in, you can breathe the sea air.

Local people walk these fields every day. Paths and bridleways are well worn and much loved. There are footpaths connecting to Beacon Heath, lined with fantastic high Devon hedgerows bursting with biodiversity along a quiet road which would make a wonderful Green Lane.

That’s why our campaign begins here: to protect these natural resources for all our community we need a STRATEGIC PLAN.

BUT THE CAMPAIGN IS FOR ALL OF PINHOE > Take a look at the holloway in Monkerton, along historic Pinn Lane which has been cut in two, cutting off safe access for pedestrians and cyclists, degraded by developers loading soil to its edge until sections collapse.

This is what it looked like in May 2019
And this is what it looked like in February 2020, with soil from the Sandrock development stored right up to its edge and collapsing through to the path

And Gypsy Hill Lane – look at the concrete steps which cut this historic path in two! The road at the top is one of the main routes into East Devon and was designed, agreed and put in place by the Monkerton Masterplan.

This was already happening in July 2019 and no amount of conversations with the site manager of Linden Homes was getting anything done to safeguard this beautiful lane

If you have photos to document the destruction of Pinhoe’s network of historic paths and hedgerows, please get in touch:

Petition > Strategic Scrutiny

Presented to Exeter City Council’s Strategic Scrutiny Committee at Exeter’s Guildhall, Thursday 23rd September 2021

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak today and respectful of the expertise of this committee. I’m also grateful to my local councillor David Harvey who advised me to be myself, to focus on the petition and to only ask the council to do what the council can do.

As a systems convener, I’m interested in bringing people together across social and commercial interests to generate collective solutions to complex, systemic challenges. Like this.

Green infrastructure in Pinhoe has been deteriorating over time and the network it provides for nature and wildlife is collapsing.

I can quote the Treeconomics Survey, commissioned by Exeter City Council, that shows Pinhoe has the lowest tree canopy cover in the city. And I can show you the Devon hedgerows brimming with biodiversity, full of trees and wildlife, running along key routes through Pinhoe – hedgerows that come to an abrupt halt, where they have been removed and reduced to a single plant in a single pot standing alongside the developer’s advertising boards.

As a community in Pinhoe, we’ve been watching this happen with increasing anxiety; we’re not alone. We’ve been contacted by groups devastated by the scale of wildlife loss in their area. Many are looking for inspiration and most, quite frankly, are looking for hope.

So here it is: I present to you our idea for a Ridgeline Park to protect the distinctive landscape of the Northern Hills and connect across the city and beyond. This Ridgeline Park would make so many connections – not only to the city’s Valley Parks at Mincinglake by extending the Green Circle walk, but reaching all the way across to the Greater Exeter area at Poltimore, Cranbrook and the Clyst Valley Park. And beyond, through the Two Counties Way, to Somerset!

We see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to safeguard local green spaces for local people to encounter local wildlife, with all the wellbeing benefits that brings.

There’s an amazing network of green spaces across Exeter which could track so many routes to connect everything in the most amazing resource for the whole city. It develops the narrative of Exeter’s Garden City status in the most powerful way, enhancing the Council’s reputation for its regional ambition and directional policymaking, notwithstanding the challenges of government planning directives.

Importantly, it would shift the Council’s narrative from GROWING the city, to building a city that THRIVES.

What can the Council do?

  • Local landowners need new policy frameworks to explore carbon offsetting and other nature recovery investment models. The expertise is out there and Natural England has already begun this process.
  • Local Plan consultations need new models of mapping and protecting green infrastructure to recharge the sense of civic participation.
  • Council can develop new models for community housing: local housing for local people, alongside the Liveable Exeter and Net Zero plans. Integrating conversations with developers in a local conversation.

This sort of community wealth-building approach is gaining momentum nationally. Exeter City Council has the opportunity to lead our city at this moment, as it builds the new Local Plan and looks to reimagine relationships with our neighbours across the Greater Exeter area.

The Ridgeline Park project achieves all these objectives.

The World Health organisation announced yesterday that it has HALVED its recommended guideline limits for particulate pollution. I suggest to this committee that there are many roads in Exeter which would fail this limit multiple times on a daily basis. The climate crisis is also a crisis of our wellbeing.

From Pinhoe, we urge you to create change. To begin the process of priority and policy that can uniquely shape this city in a new direction that will protect our green infrastructure. We want to work with the Council to create this PROJECT OF HOPE, beginning with the Northern Hills, founded on practical potential, demonstrating social and environmental value to all of Exeter. “

Thank you / Kate Jago

Our Local Knowledge

As we move towards becoming a social enterprise, it’s time to share some of the research, training and ideas behind our new project.

We’ll update these pages with references to our research, learning from our training, and info on all the connections we’re making not only locally, but nationally

Eastern Fields’ Village Green

Here’s some info about the 2016 campaign to stop a road cutting through Eastern Fields:

“We are a group of local residents who are fighting to save an urban green oasis & register it as a village green to keep it safe for future generations.
Eastern fields is a much used and valued green space between Exhibition Way and Harrington Lane, Pinhoe Exeter. It is surrounded by housing estates and industrial land. It has been used since the 1950’s for informal recreation. In recent years the city council has spent thousands of pounds in planting young trees to encourage wildlife and these areas of trees are growing well and the birds, insects and animals have all moved into their new habitat. It also has a new and much used cycle path linking two primary schools as well as other destinations and is valued for the safety and peacefulness of the route. It is a tranquil and pleasant environment. It is a place where children have played for generations, whether ball games or building dens. Eastern Fields is a green space in an urban environment. It is valued for all the benefits that green and open spaces give to people.
There are massive developments planned for the eastern side of the city and Eastern Fields will be even more needed as green space. The area is important to our community and we do not want to lose it. It is a unique and beautiful place and part of our local history. Our city council is planning a link road through the field as well as industrial development on the lower half. We do not believe it is necessary to have industrial development on this land given the extent of land in the surrounding area already being developed for industrial use. Neither do we believe that the proposed road would solve Pinhoe’s traffic problems to the extent that merits the loss of such valuable recreation land and wildlife habitat. As people and residents who value the field we are therefore campaigning to try to preserve and protect it.”

The campaign video has some brilliant shots of the connection to Cheynegate Lane and you can just about see the walk to the top fields >


You can also see the connection through to the business park, with a clear view of the track for the proposed Highways Link Road >

We’re looking for documents which evidence the process of campaigning, as well as Council planning and appeal – please get in touch if you can help with this #localexpertise!


Presented to Exeter City Council meeting; Exeter Corn Exchange, Wednesday 21st July

“Thank you, Lord Mayor, for the opportunity to speak today.

I’d like to thank the Council for its time and attention” * and Council officers for their guidance and advice in running the petition. Thank you all for your individual and collective, contribution and commitment to local democracy at this time of climate emergency.

This petition is in front of you as the result of extractive models of development which have hollowed out green infrastructure in Pinhoe. We are asking for the Council’s cross-party support for a transformative community-led vision for Pinhoe and for the city’s Northern Hills, to protect wellbeing, wildlife and wildspaces not only for Pinhoe but for the whole of Exeter, connecting our vital Nature Recovery Network across the city and beyond.

When the parish of Pinhoe joined Exeter in 1966, it embraced its new role as city suburb. Rural farming fields gave way to development – slowly at first, but with gathering speed.

Pinhoe has played an important part in the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point area: hosting the Met Office and bordering the Science Park as part of the joint strategy for adjacent development. Substantial housing developments weave through and wrap around our village alongside all the accompanying traffic, business and educational infrastructure.

We recognise the city’s efforts to contextualise development while under sustained pressure from successive government targets. But I’m here today because those protections have failed. And the consequences are cascading towards collapse.

More than 1500 cars an hour pass through the centre of Pinhoe during peak times. The traffic strategy for Pinhoe is on the brink of collapse. Change must come.

Meanwhile, historic sunken lanes are breached; footpaths and rights of way removed and degraded; important landmark trees are vulnerable, isolated from the context of their landscape; wildlife corridors are being decimated. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

So here’s the good news!

In neighbouring East Devon, the ambitious Clyst Valley Regional Park has widespread public support, successfully bid for major funding and is woven through their councils’ strategic objectives. With well-defined networks of greenspaces, environmental sustainability, plus local and national collaboration established as core values, it’s a wonderful model.

We know our Council has challenged government guidelines where it can and officers have sought to balance the impossible demands not only in Pinhoe, but across the city. And we’re heartened by the Council’s recent support for Pinhoe Ridge at Higher Field.

This is our vision:

• To establish a “natural asset network” of historic lanes, public greenspaces, footpaths and bridleways to be placed at the core of a new community-led approach to create a resilient, sustainable active travel area in Pinhoe. This ‘community asset’ strategy could open new avenues of funding and infrastructure investment.

• For the Pinhoe Area Access Strategy to be revisited and completely revised in this context, identifying pollution hotspots, developing community-led solutions and placing the wellbeing of our community directly within Exeter’s corporate strategy to “tackle congestion and accessibility, promote active healthy lifestyles and great neighbourhoods”. Support from Exeter City Council could be foundational for our community request for review.

This petition also marks the beginning of our campaign for the NORTHERN HILLS, an iconic part of the city’s skyline, to be protected as the city’s new Ridgeline Park:

We ambitiously propose a connection to the city’s green circle of Valley Parks at Mincinglake and to the Clyst Valley Regional Park at Poltimore, to create an extensive, ambitious Nature Recovery Network in line with Natural England’s national project. It could also extend into Somerset via the Two Counties Way.

Underpinning the sense of place for both Pinhoe and Beacon Heath, this project would protect wildlife and wildspaces not only for these communities but for the whole of Exeter, connecting a walkable Nature Recovery Network across the city and beyond.

Building from the petition to create our community-led vision for connection across the city, this is our PROJECT OF HOPE, founded on practical potential and demonstrating social and environmental value to all of Exeter.

Thank you.”

* Inspired by WHY REBEL, this is an adapted quote from Jay Griffiths’ “Regina vs Me”

Ongoing research

A sorts of new models for participatory democracy have developed since the mutual aid movement transformed traditional community groups. Along with citizen assemblies, doughnut economics and lots of reports confirming the importance of place-making and its impact on wellbeing, here are a few interesting links:

• A useful new platform for community groups, to encourage participatory democracy, consultation and even enable crowdfunding >

• We’re not alone in feeling like a village within our city: here’s the manifesto of a group building on the mutual aid community model we’ve been a part of, helping to build micro-local communications for communities >

• Sheffield’s amazing GREY TO GREEN project > showing how funding could be brought together to transform road space into green space >

• There’s great enthusiasm to find a space in Pinhoe for a circle of blossom trees inspired by the National Trust’s project >

Hedgerows – documenting the loss

Historic green infrastructure being replaced by development across Pinhoe:

Planting to replace high Devon hedgerow: compared with original hedge shown here opposite the development

Planting to replace high Devon hedgerow – 13 May 2021, see also the isolated oak tree on the skyline: Pinhoe Tree Watch

High Devon hedgerows featuring integrated Oak Trees, lining this important walk to Pinhoe’s Church


8th Feb 2020 / trees lining site along Pilton Lane, also documenting tree loss across the site including Brookhayes’ orchard planting in memorium of local teachers
The original wildlife-rich hedgerow connecting Harts Lane to Pilton Lane

Major sections of hedgerow boarded up and removed along Harrington Lane (24May21). This follows the removal of trees lining Harrington Lane earlier in the year which resulted in calls from residents reporting problems with distressed and disorientated birds (mainly covids).

This section of hedgerow was boarded up straight after this photograph was taken
This boarding has been removed to reveal newly turfed front gardens up to the pavement (July 21)

5. PINNCOURT LANE: BLOOR HOMES> Proposed Pinn Court Farm development

Hedgerows lining fields along Pinncourt Lane, to the rear of Parkers Cross Lane, Pinn Valley Road and Ross Close

Part of our report on green infrastructure across the ward area: developing a timeline of photography as a cumulative body of evidence contributed by the community in a citizen science approach. Please email YOUR photos to:

Lower Gypsy Hill Lane

Part of our report on green infrastructure across the ward area: developing a timeline of photography as a cumulative body of evidence contributed by the community in a citizen science approach

Section of Lower Gypsy Hill Lane removed by Linden Homes
Substantial sections of hedgerow have removed and not replaced on the lower footpath

Note: steep concrete steps interrupt the lane to make way for the main Tithebarn Way road. This makes the route inaccessible for many local residents

Historic lanes connecting Monkerton

FAILURE OF FORMAL PROTECTION : Latest photos evidence the terrible state of hedgerows bordering the Sandrock site in Monkerton.
Part of Pinhoe Forum’s report on green infrastructure across the ward area: developing a timeline of photography as a cumulative body of evidence contributed by the community in a citizen science approach

Extension of Pinn Lane accessible to walkers and cyclists / photo credit: Bene Bennett

These sunken lanes form a wildlife network that once connected to the Monkerton Ridgeline; now they have been breached, broken and on one border, entirely – and illegally – removed during nesting season. When Pinhoe’s City Councillor David Harvey brought this illegal activity to the attention of authorities including Exeter City Council’s planning committee, the ‘lack of evidence’ was noted and dismissed without action.

Gypsy Hill Lane – wildlife corridor and historic footpath now dominated by development

Protection for local green infrastructure and the importance of landscape sensitivity in this development area was formalised in the Monkerton and Hill Barton Masterplan, approved by ECC in 2010 as “a framework to guide the future development of a sustainable urban extension to the north east of the city”. The rural character of Monkerton was to provide ‘a guide to how each part of the area should be developed in order to create a distinctive and diverse development that responds to the areas unique location and character’.

The Masterplan specified:
retaining and positively integrating the sunken green lanes as a unifying network within development
positively incorporating mature trees and hedgerows/hedgebanks as a part of development or green infrastructure, helping to create a permanence and richness to the environment
Full document available here:


Beginning with Higher Field

Pinhoe’s historic Ridgeline is visible across Exeter. Views of our treescape stretch far beyond the city and underpin the distinctiveness not only of Pinhoe, but of Exeter itself.

Dedicated local residents have photographed Pinhoe’s green skyline from a range of vantage points. They’re documenting resident and visiting wildlife species to evidence biodiversity within the field and the vital importance of its connection to adjacent wildlife corridors and green spaces, themselves under threat of development.

Image from Higher Field FB group, courtesy of Bene and Karan

This citizen science is both compelling and heartening – families of deer continue to roam and the number of visiting birds increases as the year progresses. Summer months will see the return of glow worms as part of the density of biodiversity in this grassland – previously underestimated as habitat but increasingly recognised as essential infrastructure, central to the sustainability of local biodiverse ecologies.

Problems with Planning Protocols

In the context of Exeter City Council’s compromised planning strategy, fundamentally skewed by its lack of a 5 year land supply for housing, Pinhoe has been overwhelmed by serial housing development – leaching historic green corridors, wildlife habitats and tree cover while contributing scant infrastructural, economic or community amenity benefit. Out of frustration and alarm, Pinhoe’s residents have responded to enquiries for further housing development in this field with a well-supported petition demanding greater protection for all green spaces locally.

This sense of concern is shared by many across the city. The fragility of Higher Field’s future and all its wildlife is cause for wider alarm and urgent action.

Opportunities for NEW THINKING

After an unprecedented year of lockdown, access to green space and wildlife habitats have proved essential for everyone. Going for a walk and observing nature have become regular prescriptions for our wellbeing; economic factors which have affected access to green space have been heavily underlined. Policymakers are widely recognising the complex relationships between the health of communities and their relationship to where they live.

The significance of locality in shaping a community’s economic outcomes – the physical fabric of a place, its amenities and economic infrastructures – is now underpinned by an urgency of evidence indicating that a community’s sense of place and the wellbeing of its residents are intimately and fundamentally connected. Opportunities for a new “wealth economy” which incorporates natural and social assets, are emerging and becoming influential.

Kate Jago /