Exeter Greenspace Group

Exeter Greenspace Group

About the Project

EGG (Exeter Greenspace Group) is a community-based voluntary group. EGG aspires to become a non-statutory consultee to local planning authorities in the Exeter area, developing evidence for local authorities’ green space strategies (including the Exeter Local Plan and other planned strategic regional cooperation) by facilitating community stakeholder engagement.

Our Aims:

VISION: EGG recognises the importance of greenspace on wellbeing and aims to take a new approach to connecting communities across Exeter as an integral part of net-zero future: quantifying benefits of place-making on social cohesion and social mobility through participatory mapping and community involvement.

Objectives of EGG

  1. To utilise community participatory mapping techniques and citizen science to collate and curate maps, narratives and images describing the people of Exeter’s relationship with and use of greenspace and nature for the following purposes:

a) strategic role in the development of Exeter’s Local Plan as part of the community consultation process

b) provide evidence of community use in active planning applications.

c) to augment data collated as part of existing greenspace audits.

d) development of maps and trails to expand and improve the Exeter Green Circle and create corridors that join existing green infrastructure across the city.

e) Help to establish a new vision for greenspace for a zero carbon city and work with strategic partners to ensure that all communities across Exeter have access to 1 mile, 5 mile and 10 mile green corridors.

e) To work with local conservation and environmental organisations in identifying areas of conservation importance and where buffer zones (human/nature interaction areas) are best placed.

2. To support communities within and around Exeter in understanding planning processes and support their voice being heard within the strategic visioning of Exeter.

3. Partner city’s exploration of Community Asset Transfer as mechanism for community-led projects / empowerment.

The Story So Far

Exeter is a beautiful basin-like city with a backdrop of green hills, interspersed with valley parks and surrounded by farmland. It is a great place to connect with nature, keep fit and enjoy community life.

We have been running Exeter Green Walks in the city for over 10 years, introducing residents to little-known snickets and secluded green gems and promoting walks to forage in our hedgerows and visit farm shops on the furthest edges of the city. We have also been involved in helping to manage one of our parks and orchards and enjoy community apple pressing, tree-dressing, jam making and womble littering picking parties.

Over the past two years we have had to move away from simply enjoying our greenspace to fighting to protect it from the tide of unsustainable development sweeping the city. Although Exeter appears green at first glance, very little of the green space is protected. Exeter only has 2.6m2 of formally designated parkland per person, which is less than a third of the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum. Increasing numbers of people in this west country city are living in “green poverty” with no formal access to greenspace.  Our local plan and city council places high value on our green hills and valley parks but they are still under threat. Our planning committee have refused the last three applications to build on our Northern Hills but all these refusals are being appealed by developers. The sense of loss by the community is immense.

We have been meeting regularly since 2021 to educate ourselves in planning law and better understanding how we can protect the greenspace that means so much to us. In May 2022 we participated as a ‘rule 6 party’ in a 4-day inquiry into the first of the year’s appeals challenging our council’s refusal of planning permission on our northern ridge. To do this we had to crowd fund thousands of pounds to pay for expert advice, spent hundreds of probono hours in preparing evidence, and our party members each took 4 days of annual leave to participate in this inquiry.

However, we were fighting against developers with deep pockets, and we knew that we could easily lose, despite a strong case, because the odds are still stacked strongly in favour of developers, and the law to protect our rights to nature were not yet strongly enough embedded in national policy. Despite the fact that 1 in 22 deaths in Exeter are attributable to poor air quality and that some areas suffer from air pollution 150% the legal limit, new car-centric developments are being allowed and the trees and greenspace that could help mitigate the worst effects of pollution are being destroyed. There is growing evidence that natural open green space and connection with nature can improve both physical and mental health as well as improving community cohesion, but the rights to access these important resources are still not strongly enough supported in law. Developers have been allowed to claim sustainability on paper and these claims have not always been properly scrutinised.

We set up Exeter Greenspace Group to support communities in standing up for their greenspace, to shine light on the areas of planning policy that support preservation of greenspace and to raise awareness of the need to strengthen laws and policies. As a community we want to have bramble patches to pick with our grandchildren; we want to marvel in the glimpses of glow-worms; we want to stroll around the hills at the breath-taking views of the sea; we want to make cider together; we want spaces that allow us to be together without prejudice. All of these things can be possible if we ensure that green infrastructure is at the heart of city planning and that we stand together to question anyone who says otherwise.

    How to Get Involved

    We are always happy to have more members to support our objections to planning and development of neighbourhood plans. If you don’t have time to help but would like to donate money to support our work we are happy to receive donations.