How the Tories squandered an opportunity to provide affordable housing in Exmouth

Owl’s attention has been drawn to some particularly interesting letters concerning local planning matters in this week’s edition of the Exmouth Journal:  GESP and Goodmore’s Farm. The previous post dealt with GESP, this post gives Cllr Paul Millar’s view on Goodmores Farm.

Goodmores Farm: more affordable housing needed

Exmouth needs more social and affordable housing; that is my number one priority for the people of this town.

Our statistics show that there are thousands of Exmouth residents languishing in the private rented sector paying eyewateringly-high rents, and thousands more on the waiting list for social and affordable housing.

We also have many in temporary accommodation having been made homeless by family circumstances and/or an eviction from a private tenancy made before lockdown. With little space for Exmouth to expand, the Goodmore’s Farm site will be one of the last major housing developments in our town.

This site represents the perfect opportunity to deliver the homes our local people need: a mixture of starter homes for first-time buyers, many of whom are living with parents saving for a mortgage and genuinely affordable homes; and secure tenancies for local people without savings.

However, the developer does not consider the building of at least 25 per cent affordable homes to be viable.

Had the Conservative county council not insisted on a new primary school on the site, we wouldn’t be in this situation with the affordable housing.

Despite hundreds of written objections, the scheme is set to go ahead.

There is no way the East Devon District Council planning committee can responsibly vote against it because they know the Planning Inspector would overrule them and that costs the council money. The principle of the school was unwisely, in my view, agreed by the committee in 2018.

Even if there is a need for a new primary school, which has not been demonstrated, the location is far ft-om ideal, with the busy Dinan Way known for its high levels of traffic.

A planning officer told me that the only possible way this development could, at this late stage, include more affordable homes is if Devon County Council spoke with the developer and dropped the school, in exchange for some playing pitches, for example, which would be far less expensive and far more beneficial.

So I urge Exmouth residents to contact the county council cabinet member for schools and your two Exmouth county councillors Richard Scott and Jeff Trail, with your objections.

This will show strength of feeling in the town, against the building of 317 homes, only 16 of which local people with a housing need could possibly access in terms of affordability.

Cllr Paul Millar Democracy and Transparency Portfolio Holder, East Devon District Council Ward Member for Exmouth Halsdon