The New EDDC Administration inherits a Poisoned Chalice on Derisory numbers of Affordable Houses

From a Budleigh Correspondent:

As an onlooker from Budleigh Salterton I have been surprised that there has been little outcry from Exmouth to date at the derisory number of affordable houses which Eagle Investments propose for the Goodmores Farm site. After all, this is meant to be a green wedge and five and half acre farmland is being lost so there must be exceptional reasons to build here. I would have thought that the most compelling reason is to provide affordable housing. But only 5% of the proposed housing will be affordable, only 16 out of a total of 317 houses .This is a great reduction to the 49% Plan requirement ie 88 and 33 less than the original 14/0330/MOUT approved application. This site is the largest allocated site in Exmouth in the EDDC Local Plan so the remaining 5 sites will have to provide a total of 591 affordable homes (i.e. requirement 607 less the 16 Goodmores’ proposed affordable homes).

This has been brought to my attention by the recent Local Government Association report that states that at least 100,000 homes should be built every year to rent to key workers who have helped fight coronavirus and to the families of those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic. The 100,000 target should become part of the government’s wider ambition for building 300,000 homes a year. The 16 houses proposed for Goodmores Farm site will not go very far to alleviate Exmouth’s need.

Will we be concreting over more of Exmouth’s few remaining green fields?

The EDDC new administration have inherited many poison chalices, including this application. Eagle Investments Ltd has already secured outline permission for up to 350 homes on the site after its original blueprints were NARROWLY APPROVED by East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee in July 2018.  But who is now to get the blame on this one? Not the old DMC chaired by Tory Mike Howe but the Democratic Alliance.

As a contributor to EDDC’s website writes “I understand the developer has been let off the requirement to provide the usual proportion of affordable homes to protect his profit margin due to the high value of his S.106 obligations. This is difficult to defend in my opinion. It is the affordable homes that are needed not yet more speculative housing which will largely be occupied by incomers rather than locals. If this site is considered uneconomical to develop then don’t develop it. That would please many more people than it upsets.

Why am I from BS so interested in this problem? Well, of course we have had the same fiddle. BS Town Council agreed to release land at the time of the start of the EDDC Local Plan in 2011 as 50% of the housing was allocated for affordable housing needs even though the site was outside the BUAB and in the AONB, a designated protected area. The land was owned by a retired local GP who, to quote, “would like to see housing for local people and he had found a developer with the experience and the FUNDING to achieve such a project”. Planning permission was granted for 30 affordable homes -50% – in a development of 59.

Of course the DMC reduced this to 21 affordable homes in 2016.

And, of course, this they reduced this to FIVE in 2018. Yes, I repeat 5 reduced from 30!

The Housing Strategy Officer Melissa Wall was unhappy

“This application seeks to reduce the amount of affordable housing provided which is obviously disappointing. Under the current S106 agreement (as varied) this site was going to provide 50% affordable housing. The applicant has submitted viability evidence claiming that it is only viable to provide 5 units (8.5%) of affordable housing in phase 1. It is proposed that phase 2 will contain no affordable housing. An affordable housing provider has been found for this site and is due to take the 5 already completed units in phase 1. 2. This variation is contrary to Strategy 34 of the East Devon Local Plan which requires 50% affordable housing in Budleigh Salterton.”

The local councillors were deeply unhappy quoting BS Neighbourhood Plan policies and EDDC Strategies 21 and 34. Words such as “the original application was reckless” “If this developer can’t go some way to honour the undertakings given when planning was approved let someone else try.” “This application to vary the conditions to me smacks of developer greed.”

Perhaps I should let the local Tory councillor sum up

“I strongly abject to the application that will blow a hole in the policies intended to protect the AONB. This site is in a sensitive location, on a rise to the south of the approach road from the north east. The only justification for such an encroachment was the provision of a high level of affordable homes for local people.”

But of course, the Tory dominated DMC approved the application. It was called the Development Management Committee for a reason!