“Documents show plans to create 36 sheltered apartments for the elderly should be worth nearly £1million to the Sidmouth community – but the developer has shown it is ‘unviable’ to pay more than £41,000.
Churchill Retirement Living hopes to demolish the former Green Close care home in Drakes Avenue to make way for the development.
Its five-figure offer towards off-site ‘affordable’ housing was slammed as an ‘insult to Sidmouth’ by town councillors, who suggested the developer should pay at least £360,000.
After failing to reach an agreement with East Devon District Council (EDDC), Churchill launched an appeal due to non-determination of its application.
Papers submitted to the appeal process from EDDC say there is a policy expectation that half of the site should be provided as ‘affordable’ housing and that there is a ‘substantial’ need for one- and two-bedroom units in Sidmouth.
If 18 ‘affordable’ homes cannot be provided on-site, a payment of £935,201 would be expected so the properties can be built elsewhere.
Churchill said a viability assessment showed building ‘affordable’ homes on the site was ‘impractical’ and ‘unrealistic’.
It added: “It has been demonstrated that the application development is not sufficiently viable to permit the imposition of any affordable housing or planning gain contributions above £41,208.”
An EDDC spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately, the development is not sufficiently viable to pay this [£935,201] sum and, following an independent assessment of the viability of the scheme, it was reluctantly accepted that the scheme could only afford to pay £41,208 towards affordable housing.
“Under government guidance, we are required to reduce our requirements where a development is unviable and so we have no real choice but to accept this position.”
EDDC also expected Churchill to pay £22,536 for habitat mitigation, plus an £18,400 public open space contribution. The total is nearly £1million.
The delay in EDDC deciding the fate of the application was due to officers trying to apply an ‘overage’ clause that would require Churchill to pay up if its profits exceed current expectations.
A Planning Inspectorate spokesman confirmed that the appeal had been validated and it is in discussion with both parties.”