Developer Bovis too poor to finish Axminster estate – and “steep slopes” came as a surprise (and Owl says ‘I told you’!)

Owl predicted problems with this development LONG ago:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/04/04/axminster-regeneration/

Recall the site was acquired below market value when Axminster Carpets got into difficulty.

And it seems that Bovis has its own troubles:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/04/30/bovis-slow-down-will-hit-east-devon-hard/

Although again Owl drew attention to another problem affecting house sales on the site:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/12/23/axminster-and-cranbrook-slums-of-the-future-says-councillor-hull-whilst-councillor-moulding-says-nothing/

So, it’s hardly surprising we find that Bovis blames everyone but themselves for their so- called plight – though its directors are probably not too worried about their bonuses:
http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2017/06/21/new-bovis-homes-boss-buys-extra-2m-shares/

“HOUSE building on the Bovis Homes Cloakham Lawn estate could cease unless planning conditions are removed or eased.

Bovis Homes says the scheme is in the process of stalling and, unless it can be brought back into viability, the company will have “no option but to cease work and mothball the development”.

But Axminster Town Council feels it is an attempt by the developer “to wriggle out of its commitments”, with district councillor Ian Hall saying: “‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

Bovis Homes has submitted a planning application to East Devon District Council (EDDC) to vary the Section 106 agreement (a set level of affordable housing and contributions towards the local infrastructure and facilities).

The development includes permission for up to 400 dwellings, and the company celebrated the second anniversary of its on-site sales office in September last year.

But a summary of an independent viability assessment, produced by chartered surveyor Belvedere Vantage Ltd, says: “The local market in Axminster has proved very difficult, with interest in the first phase of the development having slowed significantly, resulting in a large number of completed unsold ‘standing units’.”

The summary also referred to a number of physical constraints at the site, and “potential abnormal costs” associated with the constraints, which started to become clear during detailed site investigations after outline planning permission had been given.

Constraints include areas with very steep slopes, a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site, the need to maintain access to existing leisure facilities.

The negative impacts, including an inability to plan the scheme effectively, of a tree preservation order are also mentioned.

Axminster Rural district councillor Ian Hall, having declared an interest as he is the chairman of Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre (a Bovis Homes tenant), said in a formal response: “I have absolutely no sympathy.

“This land was purchased by Bovis for £2.9m cheaper than the market price when the failing Axminster Carpets Ltd was winding up.

“Bovis representatives (who were the strong arm of Bovis during the purchase of the land) were very aware of the agreements and were more than happy to proceed with the bargain of the decade.

“I am not one to make unnecessary fuss, although, on this issue, I will not compromise.

“ ‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”

The independent viability assessment is confidential because it contains commercially sensible information, which is not included in the publicly available summary.

Axminster Town Council has requested more detailed confidential information and, in its formal response to EDDC, said: “The town council objects to this application, which appears to be an attempt by the developer to wriggle out of its commitments.

“There is insufficient information on which to make a well-reasoned response.”

The town council requested a meeting with EDDC and the developer so that it would be able to “respond in the light of more detailed, commercially confidential information”.

The town council also requested a site meeting in the company of a planning officer.

Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said EDDC replied it could not share confidential information, but had appointed an independent viability consultant.

EDDC also expressed a willingness to host a site visit, which is yet to be arranged.

In her formal response to the application, EDDC housing strategy officer Melissa Wall said: “We are disappointed that the applicants have not approached the council before submitting their application to vary the S106 contributions to discuss their viability concerns.

“We are open to suggestions regarding changing the tenure and numbers of affordable units in order to assist viability.

“We are hopeful that agreement can be reached between the council and the applicant to ensure that the development can support some form of affordable housing.”

Bovis Homes would not say how many houses have been built and how many are under construction – nor would the company comment on Councillor Hall’s claims.

A spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on live viability applications but we will continue to work closely with the local authorities to deliver the new development at Axm- inster, which is providing much-needed new homes as well as an economic boost and jobs for the area.”

https://www.viewnews.co.uk/housing-development-axminster-stop/

3 thoughts on “Developer Bovis too poor to finish Axminster estate – and “steep slopes” came as a surprise (and Owl says ‘I told you’!)

  1. “The summary also referred to a number of physical constraints at the site, and “potential abnormal costs” associated with the constraints, which started to become clear during detailed site investigations after outline planning permission had been given. Constraints include areas with very steep slopes, a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site, the need to maintain access to existing leisure facilities.”

    As someone with experience of the strategic planning of large developments, I would point out that:

    a. Steep slopes and leisure facility access would have been obvious before buying the land – and certainly before a PP was submitted.

    b. It is standard practice to submit flood modelling with a PP application, so I cannot see how constraints like “a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site” could possibly be a surprise.

    An assessment by a chartered surveyor can hardly be considered “independent” if it was paid for by the developer. Perhaps Bovis Homes would like to open their accounts for inspection so that the public can verify their claims.

    The private sector are supposed to accept the risks and rewards of developments, not attempt to obtain additional profit by demanding the public give back some of the money agreed for infrastructure or by reducing the number of desperately needed affordable homes.

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  2. Perhaps Bovis houses in Axminster were difficult to sell as the reputation of Bovis building and its problems were so well publicised. It speaks for itself. Surely Bovis cannot be surprised that people are reluctant to buy their houses with all that negative publicity. But will they get away with it??

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    • In the end it comes down to quality and price. If they are not selling it is either (as Diana suggests) due to their reputation for (poor) quality, or because the price is too high.

      Given the ever-growing massive profits that all developers (including Bovis) post every year, perhaps Bovis should recognise that they are in a competitive market and lower their prices.

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