“A row over affordable housing has divided a picturesque Devon village famous for thatched cob cottages dating back to the 16th century.
In a row which will echo across many small Westcountry communities, a small group of locals is pitted against the council and its need to meet housing targets and provide cheaper homes.
Moves to identify land for development in Broadhembury have sent shock waves through the parish of around 700, which include TV property show presenter Kirstie Allsopp.
Three separate surveys have been conducted by the parish council, revealing a majority in favour of building a handful of affordable homes, and five eligible families.
Despite the apparent support and need, a group of around 45 residents in the centre look set to block the plan to allocate land within East Devon District Council’s list of potential sites to be developed, under its Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment.
Among those opposed to building on land owned by a local farmer, opposite the village hall, is Michael Drewe, who lives in Broadhembury House and owns many of the cottages in the centre, where the Drewe Arms carries the family name. Mr Drewe, a descendant of Julius Drewe, who built Castle Drogo, says the village has grown organically for 500 years and doesn’t need “another community stuck on the side”.
In a letter to the village magazine, he warned that there were plans for 20 houses – “and this could be the start of something a lot bigger”.
He claims to have been misrepresented by the “dubious” survey, adding: “Would you be proud to have supported an unnecessary and highly incongruous housing estate that proved to have destroyed the incredibly special – indeed unique – nature of a gem like Broadhembury?”
“There is too much at stake here, and once the damage is done it will be irreversible.
The parish council was asked to review five sites but said only one fir – eh??met the criteria set by EDDC, such as building near shops and schools.
The council launched a survey in 2013 and found that 74% of the 121 surveys returned (265 were delivered) backed the construction of more affordable homes with 12% against, most saying between five and 15 homes were required.
A further survey by the Community Council of Devon sent to each person on the Electoral Roll generated 194 responses; people responded (almost 40%), the majority wanted more than 11 to be built.and 365 saying 20 should be built.????
In November 2014 the Devon Rural Housing Partnership carried out a confidential survey and found that five people would qualify for affordable housing. using their measures. When asked where these homes should be built, most said Broadhembury, followed by Kerswell then Luton.
The matter is set to come to a head next week at a parish council meeting with only one item on the agenda.
Bob Nelson, chairman of Broadhembury Parish Council, said the views of those in the village centre had to be considered despite the majority support from the parish.
If we want affordable housing the best chance we have is on that site,” he added.
“Not everyone agrees and quite a few think it will damage the uniqueness of the village – understand that. If the people who live close don’t like it, it is unlikely we will go ahead. If people don’t want affordable housing near them we won’t push it. The more important consideration is to get the neighbourhood plan into legislation.”
Conservative district councillor Philip Skinner said each village around the district “needs to do a little bit more” to help with the chronic lack of house-building. He described the anti-campaign as “all rather sad really”.
“There is no rampant house building or a developer looking to push it, just a little local scheme with a community land trust,” he added. “It is a beautiful, unique village and this ticks all the right boxes. The parish has worked hard to develop a neighbourhood plan then out of the blue Michael Drewe has kicked up.”