This blog is about Exeter – what needs to change, what needs to be conserved, and how what’s needed can happen. Much of what I will write is, I hope, applicable to other similar communities; and indeed to some that are very different.
It’s written from a Green perspective, though it does not always follow adopted Green Party policy. Nor do I speak here for the Green Party, despite being an active member in Exeter. Much of the content will be familiar to local Party friends and colleagues, because it reflects our shared belief that society should be organized for the common good respecting the limitations of the planet and not for the convenience of the financially privileged.
The starting pistol for this blog was fired twice during January.
On 20 January we witnessed a pyrrhic victory of the ruling Labour group on Exeter City Council who – despite extensive and well-informed opposition from community groups – gave outline planning approval to a deeply flawed scheme for redeveloping the city centre bus and coach station site. At this stage the details are not important: suffice it to say that the development will do nothing to help create the sustainable community we need. It is a triumph of the increasingly redundant “old politics”, which I will describe in the next two posts on this blog.
Then, a week later, the Exeter City Futures project was formally launched. Under the strap line of “Our City, Our Say” – though who “our” is in this context might be debated – the project promises to “reimagine” the city’s future, using data analytics and technology to identify solutions for a sustainable city and draw in capital investment. The project is run jointly by the city council and Andromeda Capital an Exeter-based company which invests in projects with essentially green ideals. How this project might evolve, and how the people of Exeter and wider Devon can influence it, will be reviewed in a future post.
First, though, where are we heading? What could the Exeter of the future be like? To provide an “anchor” for this blog, to give it a sense of purpose, I’ve set out here my own take on that future. This isn’t a masterplan, and it may evolve during the life of the blog.
Much of this particular future can be achieved within the existing powers available to local government, aided by some substantial attitude and behaviour changes by all who live and work in Exeter. The one flight of fancy is that central government has been persuaded – perhaps by the work of the emerging Exeter City Futures project – to designate Exeter as an “Innovation Zone” which allows some creative modification of national tax and accountancy rules.
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The Exeter City Futures project is a giant data collection exercise, run by a hedge fund with the aim of re-fashioning Exeter into what big business wants it to be. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what the people of Exeter want, and it is an utterly anti-democratic project based on one man’s vision of a corporate playground city. It has as much to do with sustainability as “bringing democracy” had to do with the invasion of Iraq. We are being sold a bill of goods here – please wake up and do your research!