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