Total Spend: Exeter St. James Plan

How much does it actually cost to create a neighbourhood plan? Total Spend is a series of case studies that investigate neighbourhood plans and how much was spent.

The place

St James ward lies to the north of Exeter city centre. It is situated between the centre and the university campus and near the mainline railway stations. Historically, it has been subject to constant urban development. This has raised concerns about loss of open spaces, changing  urban character and increasing through-traffic. Due to its proximity to the university campus, more than 50% of residents are students. A group of residents’ associations and individuals joined together to form the Exeter St. James Forum in early 2011. Their aim was to ensure St James becomes a balanced and vibrant neighbourhood. Neighbourhood planning provided the group with a way to involve the local community in a plan to achieve that aim.

The plan

The Plan comprises of 25 policies divided into seven categories:

  • environment
  • design
  • community
  • economy
  • sustainable development
  • heritage
  • transport.

The Plan encourages development that will deliver a balance between full-time residents and students  and make the area an attractive place for people of all ages to settle. It outlines policies specifically concerned with the expected enabling development for two of the city’s sports clubs, purpose-built student accommodation, design and heritage. It also sets out ways in which the natural and urban environment can be improved.

Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan cover
Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan cover

The people

The Steering Group was comprised of local people including elected members and representatives of all residents’ associations in St. James ward. There was a graphic designer on the team who provided the design work for printed materials and the website for free. This would have cost some £1,000 otherwise.

Key members of the Steering Group were a landscape and planning consultant and a planning consultation adviser, both living in the ward, who worked voluntarily throughout the process. Other members of the Steering Group and wider Forum assisted with the evidence base, working in task groups, and consultation events.

The Forum received donations from the county councillor’s locality budget and small donations from members of the Forum towards project funding. Students from the university were involved in consultation events. The Local Authority was very supportive throughout the process. Exeter St. James Forum was designated with Frontrunner status in August 2011, enabling them to draw upon the £20,000 DCLG funded grant to fund printing and consultation costs and to commission assistance for the drafting of the Neighbourhood Plan. The local authority paid the fees directly to the consultants. The council’s expenditure from the Frontrunner fund included fees for the examiner and costs of the referendum.

The process

In total the process took two years from the formation of the Forum to the referendum. Once the area was designated in June 2012, it took 11 months to reach referendum. In May 2011, the whole ward was leafleted and a community meeting held to generate initial interest and obtain agreement to prepare a plan. Public meetings were organised throughout the duration of the project in order to incorporate the views of residents and other stakeholders, such as businesses. These included drop-in sessions for the wider community to become involved in the neighbourhood planning process. The main information channel was the Forum’s website and social media was introduced towards the end of the process.

Total spend

£10,450

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Sample of spendingAmount
Commissioned support (to LDA Design as consultants on the draft and sustainability proposal)£6,500
Printing (for consultation events and draft NPs for consultees)£2,300
Miscellaneous costs (website, hiring of meeting rooms) £1,650