Development Management Committee defers Bovis Seaton affordables decision to study viability figures

East Devon’s Development Management Committee has refused to approve an application from Bovis to build extra houses on the Tesco regeneration site at Harbour Road. It decided instead to bring the matter back to its next meeting to look more closely at the viability assessment for Affordable Housing.

Members were surprised when officers said that they were free to look at the viability assessment, although it will not be made publicly available.

This setback for the developers came after the DMC’s chairman, David Keys, and the Council’s Development Officer, Ed Freeman, recommended approval of an extension of the ‘zero relaxation’ for affordable housing (which means NONE at all in the huge project) in March, without bringing the matter to the Committee or informing the town council of the application.

However, it transpires that Bovis had already applied for extra houses on the site, and said no affordable housing should be included because the scheme overall was still £6 million in the red.

But as Seaton ward member Jim Knight asked the DMC, why would they be building these additional houses if the site was not profitable?

The issue came to DMC only because of the persistence of Seaton Town Council, supported on the DMC by Councillor Peter Burrows who insisted that the matter be on the DMC agenda.

The Chair of Seaton’s planning committee, Martin Shaw, argued that the viability assessment for the new application, which linked it to the viability of the scheme as a whole, was flawed because it did not take account of the improved density of the development. He questioned whether the District Valuer had been fully informed when he signed off the viability assessment.

DMC members on all sides expressed concern. Independent leader, Ben Ingham, said that for a long time Seaton had not had enough new housing, but now that it was coming on stream, Seaton people could not afford to buy the houses being built.

Conservative councillor Simon Grundy said ‘We need to stop being treated like children over this matter. The Town council seem to have got a lot closer on this than we did.’