East Devon house growth will be outside main towns

Most of East Devon’s future housing growth will have to be built on sites outside of existing town centres, councillors have been told.

Simon Jupp talking up the possibility of Exmouth getting a slice of the “levelling-up” fund. In reality towns are being asked to gamble scarce money in preparing expensive glossy bids in what amounts to a national “Beauty Contest” – Owl

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

With the council currently producing a new Local Plan, an urban capacity study was commissioned to assess the potential for development within existing town centres

East Devon District Council’s strategic planning committee has heard that in the eight main towns in the district, a maximum of 766 homes could theoretically be built, fewer than the 928 currently required by the government to be built each year.

The meeting heard therefore that most of the housing would have to come outside of town centres, although increases in home working and thus the repurposing of office space for residential is something that may come forward further down the line.

The committee says in future, developments will probably have to be of a higher density than currently, and with in some cases to built up rather than out. Further work needs to be undertaken to examine how redevelopment of some town centres areas can be achieved.

Cllr Mike Howe suggested that a complete redevelopment of Exmouth’s Magnolia shopping centre, using money that the council has been awarded as part of the Levelling Up Fund, could provide a significant number of houses in the town centres, as well as helping to redevelop areas.

The fund is open for applications of up to £20 million to regenerate and improve High Streets in places like Exmouth, and tbuilds on the work of smaller schemes which predate the pandemic, including the Future High Streets Fund.

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, had said: “I have spoken up for Exmouth in parliament and now funding which can be used to develop plans to improve our town is on the way. East Devon District Council needs to submit a strong bid to be considered for up to £20 million for Exmouth’s High Street. I hope the council will work with me to grasp this opportunity for the good of our town.”

Under the Welcome Back Fund, which aims to prepare towns for the safe return of shoppers and tourists, East Devon District Council will also receive £230,992 from the government.

Ed Freeman, service lead for planning strategy and development management, said that the aim of the urban capacity study was to understand how many possible housing sites with a capacity of five homes or more may be located in urban areas.

He said: “It would be ideal to meet the needs from brownfield sites but sadly it is not going to be anywhere near possible based on our assessment. We have looked at what is physically and practically possible but not the willingness of landowners and details of layout of sites

“There is a potential supply of 766 homes and that is a maximum as some may never come forward as there may not be a willing landowner or more specific constraints than the high level assessment suggests. It can form a component of housing supply going forward, won’t be a significant element.”

Cllr Olly Davey said that it was a salutary reminder that cannot rely on going inside the built-up boundary to meet the housing needs, adding: “This is 766 in total, not per year, as if it was, we wouldn’t have a problem. People want to see towns developed before open countryside is, but we have to recognise that may not satisfy all our future housing needs.”

Cllr Eleanor Rylance said that there is going to need to be higher density living in urban areas in the future. She said: “If we don’t have the land, then the only solution is to go up, and Britain has to get used to living in flats. Crucially, it stops town centres from dying out as there are people around to use the businesses, as without it, a lot of the shops won’t recover.”

Cllr Howe added: “We know the Levelling Up fund is open to us and we have seed money to put together a plan for Exmouth, and I have always thought the Magnolia Centre needs a bulldozer and a redevelopment. If you did that properly and did it well, you would have lovely office and shopping units and then like Princesshay in Exeter, 3/4/5 stories of flats above.

“It would be getting people living in the centre and working in the centre, so I think we need to be ambitious on this and don’t think that the full impacts of the Levelling Up fund have been added to the equation and we need to use it, and we do have the MPs support, so we have to get a move on.

“500 homes for Exmouth on that Magnolia site would be lovely and wouldn’t it just do the goods for the town centre? I think we can achieve more than the numbers here but need to look more cleverly.”

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the council, said that there was a meeting between senior members and MPs on April 14 to talk about how to work together with the Levelling Up fund, and added: “The idea of the Magnolia Centre is fantastic and anything we can do with the opportunities to maximise the use of the footprint is a really smart idea, and that would be promising.”

Cllr Kevin Blakey put forward a recommendation that that members note the limited capacity available within the existing built-up area boundaries of the main towns and the potential need to find land outside of these areas to meet the future development needs of the district when other opportunities are exhausted, which was unanimously accepted by the committee.

The urban capacity study identified all undeveloped land within the study area, although the vast majority of the sites, such as playing fields, leisure facilities, and green spaces were discounted due to their recreational importance, and were only included for completeness rather than any indication they were being considered.

Mr Freeman told the meeting that inclusion within this final list of sites should not be considered a substitute for planning permission and the study makes no judgement on whether permission would be granted, adding that it was likely that some sites included will not be appropriate for development as a result of detailed factors not assessed though the remit of the study.

A total of 60 sites in the eight main towns were identified through the study, with a capacity for 766 homes to be built on them, but Mr Freeman added: “Even in the unlikely event that all of these sites were brought forward, the potential supply of 766 homes represents significantly less than one years housing supply coming from land within the existing built up area boundaries of the towns.

“A proactive approach to their delivery is likely to be highly resource intensive and is potentially fraught with difficulties in terms of tracking down and approaching owners to discuss these sites without being seen to be encouraging an application that may ultimately not be accepted.

“The work is however useful evidence to inform plan production and also any estimate of the likely numbers of windfall sites that may come forward in the future.”

The meeting also agreed to the provisional timetable to produce a new draft local plan, with the aim for the committee to consider it in December.

POTENTIAL SITES THAT COULD BE DEVELOPED FOR HOUSING IN TOWN CENTRES

AXMINSTER (140 homes)

Land At Millbrook Valley, Stoney Lane, Axminster – south of Hallets Way – 10 homes

Axe Vale Social Club, Chard Street, Axminster, EX13 5EB – 5 homes

Land off and north of St Andrews Drive – 10 homes

Land off St David’s Close/St David’s Drive – 5 homes

Former football pitch site at Millwey – 30 homes

Millwey Community Gardens and Community Centre – 15 homes

Land south of monkstone and west of St Mary’s church – 10 homes

Land to the east of Lyme Close – 5 homes

Parking courtyard and garages at Ridgway Court – 5 homes

Axminster Community Hospital site – 10 homes

Land north of cemetery at Millwey – 10 homes

Websters Garage site and adjoining land and buildings – 25 homes

BUDLEIGH SALTERTON (10 homes)

Land forming part of former railway line, Knowle, Budleigh Salterton – 10 homes

CRANBROOK (0 homes)

No sites considered suitable

EXMOUTH (427 homes)

Car park at Margret St/north of Lower Fore Street – 20 homes

Vacant/underused land north of Fore Street – 20 homes

Open space south of Kay Close – 6 homes

Green Close northern triangle area – 5 homes

Green Close southern triangle area – 5 homes

Open land west of Bradham Lane – 6 homes

Open land alongside Moorfield Road – 5 homes

Land at Burnside – 5 homes

Open land north of Jubilee Drive – 20 homes

Open space at junction of Bradham Lane and Salterton Road – 10 homes

Open space west of The Green/at Lestock Close – 6 homes

Open space area east of The Green /south of Village Close – 5 homes

Former waste tip site west of Dinan Way – 110 homes

Withycombe Health Centre – 5 homes

Vacant/underused industrial premises western side of Pankhurst Close – 42 homes

Green space north west of the end of Liverton Close – 5 homes

Open space north of St John’s Road – 7 homes

Open space area west of Fraser Road – 9 homes

Open space area south of Fraser Road – 5 homes

Open space area at Cedar Close – 5 homes

Open space area east of Jubilee Drive – 5 homes

Play area at the end of Betjeman Drive – 5 homes

Open space area at Jubilee Close – 5 homes

Former industrial site on Albion Hill – 12 homes

British Red Cross Hall South Street Exmouth EX8 2SA – 5 homes

28 Cranford Avenue Exmouth EX8 2PZ – 20 homes

22 And 24 Albion Hill Exmouth EX8 1JS – 14 homes

Land at Withycombe Brook, Exmouth – 50 homes

Buildings at the Deaf Academy – 30 homes

HONITON (74 homes)

Land at Dower Street, west of Lee Close development and south of A30 – 5 homes

Garages south of Pale Gate, Honiton – 5 homes

Former Millwater School, Honiton Bottom Road – 23 homes

Garage block at northern end of Marker Way – 5 homes

Land adjoining and north of beggars Lane – 13 homes

Triangular grass area south of Monkton Road adjacent to Harts garage  – 5 homes

Land north of Chapel Street – 18 homes

OTTERY ST MARY (20 homes)

Car Park and land off Brook Street, EX11 1EZ – 5 homes

Field adjacent to Cadhay Lane, EX11 1QZ – 5 homes

Field adjacent to Longdogs Close, EX11 1JN – 5 homes

Old Fire Station, Batts Lane, EX11 1EY – 5 homes

SEATON (55 homes)

Former St Johns Ambulance Depot – 8 homes

Seaton Town FC Football Ground – 28 homes

Grass triangular area beyond the eastern end of Summersby Close. – 5 homes

Seaton Community Hospital – 14 homes

SIDMOUTH (40 homes)

Grass area west of Fairmead road – 5 homes

Land at Alexandria Trading Estate – 10 homes

Land north of Peasland road – 15 homes

Sidmouth Health Centre – 10 homes

How did the man with no self-control swallow the words ‘Barnard Castle’? 

How did he do it? How, in the name of everything he takes unseriously, did Boris Johnson announce that up to 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine will be bottled and finished by GlaxoSmithKline, but somehow stop himself looking straight down the camera to add: “And they’ll do it at their plant in … [Roger Moore-style eyebrow raise] … Barnard Castle”? There are few scarcer commodities than Johnsonian self-control, but having overcome that particular urge, the prime minister now surely has no personal restraint left for the rest of the year. Lock up your infosec entrepreneurs, parents…………..

Marina Hyde www.theguardian.com extract

Councillor punished for Facebook post mocking curfew on men

The Plymouth councillor who published a picture of himself in a wig and dress mocking a proposal for a curfew on men following the death of Sarah Everard has been disciplined by the Conservatives.

Edward Oldfield www.plymouthherald.co.uk

The Facebook post by Mark Deacon, councillor for Southway, was criticised during a period of intense public discussion about violence towards women and girls.

He removed the post after an outcry and apologised for causing offence.

Cllr Deacon was suspended by the city council Conservative group pending an investigation. That has now found he broke group rules on councillor conduct.

Tory leader Nick Kelly said in a statement that Cllr Deacon would be punished by serving a 21-day suspension from the group and a warning about use of social media would stay on his file.

Cllr Kelly said the councillor had confirmed he “deeply regrets” his “error of judgement” and was “completely remorseful to those he has offended”.

A petition was later set up in support of the Tory councillor for his achievements in the Southway ward.

Cllr Deacon published a picture of himself wearing a dress and wig, with the message: “If the Green Party and some Labour Party politicians get their way and impose this ridiculous 6pm curfew on men, then I’m going to wear my dress more often.”

He later removed the post and apologised. He wrote: “I didn’t intend any offence that my comments might have caused to a section of the public.”

Cllr Kelly said the councillor had not made the connection until after he made the post between the disappearance and death of Sarah Everard and the suggestion from Baroness Jones that men should face a 6pm curfew.

The marketing executive disappeared after walking home from a friend’s house in London in early March. A week later her remains were found in Kent and a police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

Cllr Kelly said the Southway councillor would refresh his understanding of the Nolan Principles, also known as the Seven Principles of Public Live, which refer to the ethical standards public figures are expected to show of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. He would also complete the city council’s online equality and diversity training.

Cllr Deacon has represented the Southway ward since 2015 and his current term of office ends in 2023. A petition was started by a Southway resident in support of the councillor following his initial suspension, acknowledging his work in the area.

The statement from the Conservative group leader on Monday said: “Following a thorough internal investigation into the conduct of Cllr Mark Deacon as a result of a post he made on Facebook on Saturday 13th March 2021, regarding the statement from Baroness Jones that all men should face a 6pm curfew, Cllr Deacon was found to have breached the Plymouth Conservative Councillor Group’s Rules.

“The investigation found that upon realising his error of judgement, Cllr Deacon immediately removed the post that generated a number of adverse comments from the public and issued two apologies on his social media page.

“Subsequently, Cllr Deacon has confirmed that he deeply regrets his actions and is completely remorseful to those he has offended. Cllr Deacon wishes to unequivocally apologise for his actions and has learnt from this incident.

“Cllr Kelly confirmed that the post was insensitive regarding both content and timing after the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and the comments from the Baroness were made in light of this murder.

“Unfortunately, Cllr Deacon did not make this connection until after his offending post had been made public. Mark was mortified once he realised this link.

“In view of this breach, Councillor Deacon will serve a 21 day suspension from the Conservative Group. A warning will remain on Cllr Deacon’s file regarding his conduct, with specific regard to his use of social media.

“Cllr Deacon has agreed to be more mindful of expressing his views on social media in the future, especially in his capacity as a Plymouth City Councillor. Cllr Deacon will re-acquaint himself with the Nolan Principles regarding Public Life.

“Cllr Deacon will also complete the online Equality and Diversity Training provided by Plymouth City Council.

“Cllr Nick Kelly wishes to acknowledge all those who have contacted him regarding this incident, including the many offering their support to Cllr Deacon and highlighting the great work he has done since serving as a Conservative Councillor in the Southway Ward from May 2015.

“Hopefully, Mark will learn from this regrettable incident and will now once again be able to focus all his efforts into working on behalf of the residents of Southway Ward.”

Sidmouth care home probe focuses on ‘infection control’

A police investigation into Covid-19 deaths at a care home is now focusing on “infection control and management”.

BBC News www.bbc.co.uk 

A woman, 57, from Sidmouth, and a man, 30, from Exeter, who were arrested last week by police on suspicion of wilful neglect have been released on bail.

Both are members of staff at Holmesley Care Home in Sidmouth, Devon.

Nine deaths have been reported at the home since 25 February. All are thought to be related to an outbreak of the virus, Devon and Cornwall Police said.

“The police investigation is currently focusing on infection control and management within the home,” the force said in a statement.

“It is not currently related in any way to the vaccination of residents,” it added.

Holmesley Care Home said it is treating the allegations “with the utmost seriousness”.

It said it is grateful to “those diligent members of staff who brought concerns to light” adding that “the police have our full cooperation in their investigation”.

Police have previously said no other arrests were “currently planned” as investigations continued.

Officers are leading the investigation in partnership with health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

Lifelong Tory voters abandoning party over cladding crisis

Lifelong Conservative voters caught up in the building safety crisis are abandoning the party after its MPs voted against protecting leaseholders from potentially crippling costs to fix fire risks discovered after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Robert Booth www.theguardian.com 

Apartment owners, some of whom have supported the Tories since Margaret Thatcher set out her vision of a “property-owning democracy”, said they could no longer vote for a party which they argued was placing the interests of property developers and freeholders above homeowners.

One who had voted Tory for 50 years said he was “incensed” at seeing young people just climbing on to the housing ladder getting “kicked in the teeth”. Another, who supported the party for 30 years said “they are abandoning the people working hard to own their homes”.

The affected voters include middle-aged people who have invested in one or two apartments as a pension, people who have helped their children on to the housing ladder, owner occupiers and people who have bought a minority share of their home under shared ownership schemes but who are now being asked to pay all of the remediation bill.

The grassroots anger boiled over this week after Conservative MPs voted down an amendment to the fire safety bill, which would have ensured hundreds of thousands of leaseholders were protected from paying billions of pounds to fix apartment blocks found to be defective after the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster.

Thirty-three Conservatives rebelled, voting in favour of the protection, including Stephen McPartland, who have led minority Conservative calls to protect leaseholders, but 320 did not.

McPartland, who proposed the amendment in the first place, has described his party’s position as “morally unacceptable”.

“What we are doing today is shameful,” he told the Commons this week. “If this bill goes through even more leaseholders are going to face bankruptcy, even more are going to face huge issues around homelessness.”

McPartland said the debate was set to return to the House of Lords and he was still hoping for a government compromise. But since the vote, a stream of angry Conservatives voters have contacted the Guardian to say the government’s policy has forced them to rethink their lifelong support for the party.

“I am a lifelong Tory voter, but I am incensed at the clear injustice of how this is affecting so many young people,” said Peter Barnfield, 69, who owns a flat in the Decks complex in Runcorn, which has missing fire breaks set to cost up to £25,000 per leaseholder. “I cannot see this is justifiable. I’ll vote Labour. There are young people who have just got on the ladder and have been kicked in the teeth.”

Jacky Herger, 59, an accounts manager who cannot sell her flat at Ingress Park in Kent because of problems with firebreaks and render, said she feared she would lose her property if forced to pay.

“I have voted Tory all my life but after the fiasco of the vote I will not be voting for them again,” she said.

Sally Ann Burton, a company director in Portishead who owns apartments facing remediation costs of £60,000 each, said: “They are telling us you are better off to rent a home. They are abandoning the people working hard to own their homes.”

David Davis, the former shadow home secretary who also rebelled and voted to protect leaseholders, said his party’s position was burdening homeowners “which is a group we should approve of”.

“This is a regulatory failure on a sizeable scale and the state should shoulder the burden and not allow it to fall on anybody whether they vote Conservative or Communist,” he said.

The government has argued that forcing freeholders to pay could trigger legal action by building owners against the government to reclaim costs, while others could “walk away” from their ownership, making the problem worse. It has also launched £5bn in grants, but only to fix dangerous cladding and not other fire safety defects, and only on buildings more than 18 metres in height.

But its position is leaving some voters feeling “politically homeless”.

“The Conservatives are making themselves look like they’re not the party of homeownership, they are the party that don’t care,” said Alex Kubiakowska-Welch, 30, a Tory voter whose faulty block of flats in north-west London will not qualify for government funding. She said the issue had “absolutely” changed who she would vote for.

Tom Marshall, 31, faces costs of about £30,000 on his flat in the London borough of Bexley and will now vote against the party he has always supported.

“I’ve always taken the Conservative party at their word about being the party of homeownership,” he said. “I’ve had to do a bit of soul-searching. I know the Conservative party has a reputation for looking after its own, but it looks like they’re more keen on hanging on to party donors than protecting leaseholders.”

The Conservative party has been contacted for comment.