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Infrastructure & facilities

Infrastructure and facilities

Vision – Healthy and inclusive

Addressing the provision of infrastructure and community facilities links to the 2040 vision to create a healthy and inclusive city. Ensuring development is located close to existing local services or delivers new facilities will support health and wellbeing and improve inclusivity.

Vision – A leading sustainable city

Addressing the provision of infrastructure and community facilities links to the 2040 vision of Exeter as a leading sustainable city. The delivery of infrastructure in the right places at the right times helps to address our social, economic and environmental challenges and achieve our net zero ambitions.

Objective: Planning for new infrastructure and facilities at the right time and in the right places and protecting existing services that play an essential role in the lives of our residents. Helping to deliver the strategic priorities of a prosperous local economy, a healthy and active city, housing and building great neighbourhoods and a net zero carbon city.  

Introduction

Our communities rely on local infrastructure to live their everyday lives; transport infrastructure helps us to get around, doctors’ surgeries provide our healthcare, schools educate our young people, digital infrastructure helps us to communicate, and greenspace and leisure facilities provide us with the opportunities to relax. 

The Exeter Plan will be vital to identify the infrastructure that we need, ensuring it is provided in the right way, at the right time and in the right place. Working with key infrastructure partners will be vital to ensure that infrastructure needs can be met in this way. The City Council will continue discussions relating to cross-boundary infrastructure provision in the context of the development planned in Exeter but also close to the city in East Devon and Teignbridge and also Mid Devon. Work with the other District Councils and Devon County Council will be particularly important here.  

Chapter Summary

The policies in this section plan for new infrastructure and facilities at the right time and in the right places and protect existing services that play an essential role in the lives of our residents.

To see and comment on the full versions select "next" at the bottom of the page. 

Policy IC1 sets out the approach to delivering new infrastructure in the city. An infrastructure delivery plan is being prepared to go alongside the Exeter Plan. In addition, more detail about the specific infrastructure and community facilities required to go alongside the various development proposals is included in the allocation policies.

Policy IC2 explains the approach that will be taken to considering the viability of development. The policy indicates potential viability changes which may be a considered reasonable in discussions over what infrastructure and affordable housing could be provided by the development.

Policy IC3 sets out the approach for the protection of existing, and delivery of new community facilities in the city.

Policy IC4 requires proposals for residential development to provide a range of publically accessible open space such as sport, recreation and allotment space. Play areas are considered separately in policy IC5.

Policy IC5 requires proposals for larger residential development to contribute to improving play area provision.

Policy IC6 sets out criteria that must be met in order for proposals for additional cemetery provision to be supported in the city.

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Delivery of infrastructure

To ensure that all new developments proposed within the Exeter Plan are delivered to a high standard, a wide and varied range of infrastructure will be required. An initial draft of an infrastructure delivery plan lists the infrastructure required to go alongside the developments identified in the plan. 


Infrastructure can be funded and delivered in a variety of ways. National policy requires that all new development addresses any anticipated impact on local infrastructure by either providing infrastructure as part of the development, through legal agreements (Section 106) requiring variable financial payments from the developer or via payment of a fixed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). 


CIL is generally collected in phases when new homes are built and used to fund future infrastructure projects. The City Council produces an Annual Infrastructure Funding Statement which sets out the general direction of travel for the types of projects which could be funded by CIL (without providing specific commitments). A review of the CIL rates in Exeter has been completed with new rates due to be implemented in 2024. This review of charges will ensure that development continues to be viable but also that CIL can still play an important role in funding infrastructure. 


Section 106 agreements are negotiated on a case by case basis for large development proposals and secure development-specific funding for infrastructure and housing projects directly related to the specific development. Section 106 agreements are commonly used to provide funding to, or the direct provision of, affordable housing, local transport improvements, education projects, open space/green infrastructure, community facilities, flood risk mitigation and GP surgeries. Other provision can be made, for example for historic environment projects where there is a clear and robust evidence base, a direct link to development and where the requirements of national planning policy are met. It should be noted that all Section 106 agreements are subject to viability considerations and so there is limit to the amount of funding which development can contribute. More information on this is provided later in this section.   


Key infrastructure can also be funded by grants or loans offered by the Government or directly by external organisations such as Devon County Council, utility companies, the Environment Agency, National Highways or the Local Enterprise Partnership. These arrangements are subject to external processes and decision-making and so collaboration is important to ensure that strategic infrastructure priorities are identified and funding opportunities maximised.


In most cases infrastructure will be funded through significant partnership working with funding coming from a variety of sources. 


Policy IC1 sets out the approach to delivering new infrastructure in the city. An infrastructure delivery plan is being prepared to go alongside the Exeter Plan. In addition, more detail about the specific infrastructure and community facilities required to go alongside the various development proposals is included in the allocation policies. 

IC1: Delivery of infrastructure (Strategic policy)

New development proposals will be supported by the delivery of associated infrastructure at the earliest practical opportunity and phased appropriately. Contributions will be sought through the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 Agreements to ensure that the necessary infrastructure, facilities and services identified in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan are in place to support development. 

Viability

In order to have an effective plan it is important that its development proposals are viable. Viable means that development can be delivered meeting the planning requirements included in local policy and still allow a reasonable incentive for a landowner to sell, together with a suitable return to a developer.   


Planning Practice Guidance identifies that viability appraisal for development proposals is an integral part of preparing a plan. Viability work for the Exeter Plan sites will be done before the next stage of consultation. 


Policy IC2 explains the approach that will be taken to considering the viability of development. It recognises that, after the adoption of the Exeter Plan, circumstances could change so significantly that viability may be affected, leading to potential discussions about whether development can afford to fund the infrastructure or affordable housing as required by plan policies. 


The policy indicates potential viability changes which may be a considered reasonable in discussions over what infrastructure and affordable housing could be provided by the development. Under these circumstances, a developer may submit a new assessment of development viability which indicates that a revised approach to the development of the site may be reasonable. This process will need to be carefully justified and comprehensive evidence of viability changes will need to be provided. The proposed viability review mechanism will help to deliver the policy requirements later in the plan period even if they are not provided initially.   


As already mentioned, the policy content of the Exeter Plan has not yet been viability tested. Future versions of the plan will be supported by a full viability appraisal. 

IC2: Viability (Strategic policy) 

To ensure that developments provide the necessary, planned policy requirements, affordable housing and infrastructure to create and maintain sustainable communities, deviation from policy requirements on grounds of viability will only be considered appropriate where one or more of the following have occurred to a significant degree following the adoption of the Exeter Plan: 

  1. Increases in infrastructure or abnormal development costs which could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time of the Exeter Plan’s adoption;
  2. Adverse changes in building costs relative to sales values; and
  3. Worsening of local market conditions caused by a recession or an extraordinary event demonstrably affecting incomes and development values.

A viability appraisal of development proposals will need to be submitted explaining the circumstances which have led to the changes in viability since the Exeter Plan’s adoption. Any variation from the proposed policy and affordable housing requirements, and deviation from the assumption that required infrastructure will be funded by development, will need to be justified.

The City Council will recover from applicants their reasonable costs associated with an independent assessment of submitted viability appraisals where a deviation from policy requirements is sought. The submitted viability appraisal and the independent review will be published by the City Council with the planning application documentation. 

Where affordable housing or infrastructure requirements are not provided due to an agreed viability reason the viability of the proposal will be reviewed every three years in accordance with the requirements of this policy to seek to achieve full policy compliance in later development phases.

Community facilities

Exeter has a wealth of services and facilities that are essential for the health, welfare, social, educational, spiritual, recreational, leisure and cultural needs of the community. These facilities include schools, open spaces, allotments, sports pitches, leisure centres or other community facilities such as community halls, places of worship, libraries, children’s centres and youth clubs. The protection of these facilities is of critical importance to our residents.


The assets of community value (ACV) process allows residents to specifically identify and nominate buildings or other assets which are of particular importance to furthering the social wellbeing or social interests of their local community. Once a nomination is successful, the community would then be notified and have the option to bid on the asset should it ever be listed for sale. 


Alongside the protection of existing facilities, providing new facilities alongside development will be key to creating a successful, liveable city and making sure that development has a positive impact. Working with our partners will be central to ensuring that essential infrastructure and facilities are provided. 


Where relevant, applications which would result in the loss of a privately run business serving an important community function (e.g. a pub) will be expected to be supported by evidence which demonstrates that the existing facility is no longer viability and that the sale of the business has been marketed for a period of 12 months in advance of the submission of the planning application. 


Policy IC3 sets out the approach for the protection of existing, and delivery of new, community facilities in the city.

IC3: Community facilities (Strategic policy)

Existing services and facilities that meet community, social, health, welfare, education, spiritual, cultural, leisure and recreation needs (including assets of community value) will be protected, unless it can be demonstrated that they are surplus to requirements or sufficient alternative/improved provision is to be provided. 

Proposals to provide new or improved community services and facilities will be supported. Engagement should take place with local communities to ensure that needs are understood, planned for and met.

Facilities that serve the city as a whole should be located in the city centre or, if this is not feasible, at sustainable locations which are readily accessible by walking, cycling and public transport. 

Facilities which serve neighbourhood needs should be located within or close to district or local centres or at locations easily accessible to the local community, by walking and cycling.  

Large scale residential proposals must provide the additional community facilities required to support any additional demand from new residents. Contributions will be sought where necessary. 

Allotments, sports and recreation in new development

Access to high quality open outdoor spaces including opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and wellbeing of communities. The city’s existing sport, leisure, public and private open spaces and allotments represent important assets serving the communities in which they are located and, in some instances, wider areas. Policy IC4 requires proposals for residential development to provide a range of publically accessible open space.


Amongst the current accessible green space in Exeter, there are 14 formal parks, 10 playing fields, 26 allotment sites (1500 plots), and 25 hectares of accessible woodland. When the Valley Parks are taken into consideration, public green space makes up nearly 10% of the total area of the city. However, the greatest value lies in the wealth of smaller parks and green spaces that are used on a more local basis for recreation, play and exercise, and that contribute to the resilience of communities.


Residential development generates a need for new open spaces. The following policy seeks to ensure that new development provides sufficient new provision commensurate with the scale of the proposal. The latest Fields in Trust guidelines for open space are widely acknowledged as the primary source of guidance regarding outdoor space provision by national and local government and so will be utilised as the benchmark level of expected open space. The guidance also sets out recommended minimum sizes for formal outdoor spaces which should also be used.


The City Council manages approximately 1500 individual allotment plots over 26 sites. Although the population of the city has increased considerably over the last fifteen years, total allotment provision has remained static since the previous allotment strategy was produced in 2007. All sites across the city are at full capacity and the waiting lists for allotment plots are extensive (over 800 as of 2023), leaving most waiting some time to secure a plot. A priority for the City Council over the next 20 years will be to ensure that new allotments are provided at a level proportionate to the increase in population. This is especially important given that new the strategic brownfield developments proposed in this plan will be higher density which could have an impact on the amount of private outdoor space. 


The Fields in Trust guidance for provision of new open space does not cover provision for new allotment space. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners recommend a quantitative standard of 20 plots per 1000 households (approximately 20 plots per 2200 people). The size of an allotment plot is 250 square metres (0.025ha). This standard is equivalent to 0.23ha of allotments per 1000 people. Given the management and space implications of provisioning new allotments, off-site financial contributions may be the most feasible means of meeting these requirements.


The City Council has recently approved a Playing Pitch Strategy. The Strategy considers the needs for pitch sports and tennis in Exeter, over the next 3-5 years (considered the practical lifetime of the Strategy) and over the longer term to 2040. New developments will need to consider this Strategy when planning for new sports provision. 


Fields in Trust benchmark guidelines required by Policy IC4 are set out in the following table. A conversion will need to be undertaken to calculate the space by space type required per dwelling based on the development proposal’s composition and house type. As a guide, the average household size in Exeter is 2.49, based on 2021 census data. 

Type

Quantity guideline (hectares per 1,000 population)

Walking guideline (walking distance in metres from dwellings)

Parks and gardens

0.80

710m

Amenity green space

0.60

480m

Natural and semi-natural

1.80

720m

Playing pitches

1.20

1,200m

Other outdoor sports

0.40

1,200m

Allotments

0.23

1,200m

IC4: Sport, recreation and allotment space in new development

Proposals for residential development will be required to provide a range of open space in accordance with the Fields in Trust benchmark guidelines and provision for allotments as set out in the table in the supporting text.  

All new open space should be: 

  1. Located to ensure easy access from all parts of the development and from the wider area; 
  2. Designed to be safe and secure, with clear sightlines, good, energy-efficient lighting, and appropriate landscaping;  
  3. Designed to be inclusive and accessible to all, regardless of age, ability, or background; and 
  4. Integrated into the wider pedestrian and cycle network.   

Major development proposals may be required to provide appropriate on-site open space. Where on-site provision is not appropriate, off-site provision or financial contributions may be sought. Development proposals will make provision for the on-going management and maintenance of open space to standards that have been agreed with the City Council.  

Where new sports provision is proposed, this must be designed to appropriate technical standards and must address the priorities for future provision as set out in the latest Council Playing Pitch Strategy.

Play areas in new development

The ability and opportunity to play outside is something that is often taken for granted. Yet, for many people, those opportunities are limited. We want our children to be active in a safe environment. Policy IC5 requires proposals for larger residential development to contribute to improving play area provision. 


Despite the pressures on land and budgets, the City Council recognises the importance of active recreation to help tackle childhood obesity. Some new housing developments install and maintain play areas under a private management agreement, though the majority of play areas and greenspace for informal play remain under the City Council’s control.


Over the last 30 years, the number of play areas within the city has almost doubled. Whilst this has improved choice, some of the play areas are only equipped with minimal equipment, reducing their appeal and leaving them underused. The approach going forward focuses more on improving the quality of play spaces within the city over the quantity. 

A definition of Exeter’s Play Areas is shown below. 


Local Play Areas (LPA): Equipment should be provided to cater for children of up to 6-7 years of age. There should usually be an area up to 400m2 activity area however, larger areas with limited play equipment provision can still be categorised as a Local Play Area. These areas will almost always be fenced off, a litter bin should always be provided, and in most cases seating as well. These areas should be considered the equivalent of Local Areas for Play in the Fields for Trust Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play. 


Neighbourhood Play Areas (NPA): Equipment should be provided to cater for children of up to at least 8 years old. A minimum of 400m2 activity area must be provided. These areas must contain at least 5 types of play equipment, of which at least 2 items are individual pieces rather than part of a combined multi play unit. These areas should be considered the equivalent of Local Equipped Area for Play in the Fields for Trust Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play.


Major Play Areas (MPA): Equipment should be provided to cater for children of up to at least 12 years of age. A minimum 1000m2 activity area must be provided. At least 5 items should encourage more adventurous play e.g. climbing, swinging, balancing, rotating or gliding (cableway), and at least 3 of these should be individual items and not part of combined multi play unit. These areas should be considered the equivalent of Neighbourhood Equipped Area for Play in the Fields for Trust Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play. 


Strategic Play Areas (SPA): Strategic Play Areas will be sites within the ‘Major’ category that are of particular importance to a specific ward, an area, or the city as a whole. These sites will often have multi use games area facilities for ball games and perhaps skate provision or other facilities for older children and teenagers.


The table below sets out what is considered reasonable in terms of walking distances from home and appropriate levels of the different types of play area provision.

Type

Quantity guideline (hectares per 1,000 population)

Walking guideline (walking distance in  metres from dwellings)

Local Play Areas and Neighbourhood Play Areas

0.25

400m

Major Play Areas (including Strategic Play Areas)

0.25

1000m

MUGAs and skateboard parks

0.30

700m

 

IC5: Play areas in new development

Major residential development proposals will be required to make suitable provision in accordance with Council Play Strategy guidance and: 

  1. Where provision exists within a reasonable walking distance, a financial contribution towards improvement of the existing equipped/designated play space will be required; or
  2. Where no provision exists within a reasonable walking distance, new provision must be provided in accordance with the guidelines provided in the supporting text. 

New cemetery provision

Exeter City Council currently operates three cemeteries in the City. 

  • Higher Cemetery, Heavitree:       15.0ha
  • Exwick:                                           6.4ha
  • Topsham:                                       2.1ha

Recent analysis shows that each of these sites are nearing capacity. To avoid a disruption in burial services, new provision will be required during the plan period.  The land requirements for new burial provision across different time periods are set out below.

Year

Design life

New graves required (/yr)

New ashes plots required (/yr)

Total no. new graves

Total no. new ashes plots

Required area (ha)

2040

15yr

70

46

1035

690

0.98

2055

30yr

81

54

2168

1445

1.72

2075

50yr

99

66

3966

2644

2.89

2100

75yr

127

84

6781

4521

4.73

2125

100yr

162

108

10391

6927

7.09

Due to the challenges in finding suitable land within existing parts of the city, a series of criteria are set out in policy IC6 to allow for sites to come forward in areas that may otherwise be unsuitable for built development, including within areas high landscape sensitivity and the Valley Parks.

IC6: New cemetery provision

Proposals for additional cemetery provision within the city will be supported, providing that it can be demonstrated that the proposal: 

  1. Does not have an unacceptable impact on landscape sensitivity or biodiversity; 
  2. Is located outside areas at high risk of flooding; 
  3. Is located outside areas of contaminated land or historic landfill; 
  4. Is located outside Groundwater Protection Zones; and 
  5. Does not result in the loss of public access, open space or areas of recreation, nor harm the potential opportunities for these functions.

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