West Devon housing scheme paused

Plans to scrap a scheme to build 12 ‘genuinely affordable’ homes for local people in Brentor are on hold following concerns residents haven’t been  consulted properly. 

“This report, to put it mildly, is cobblers.” Indy Cllr Terry Pearce

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) said the proposal for three open-market, four shared ownership and five affordable homes reflected a major development in the Dartmoor National Park which could not be justified by affordable housing demand.

The plan dates back five years when, in March 2017, the council was awarded £247,620 from the government’s community housing fund. WDBC used a portion of this for the feasibility and scheme design at Brentor.

Demand for the development was assessed by surveys including one in April this year which revealed only six households were deemed to be in need. 

This equated to five one-bed properties and one two-bed home. A report to the council’s hub committee on Tuesday 1 November said no one under 55 had completed the survey and therefore there was no evidence of future housing need for family-sized accommodation.

But independent councillor for Mary Tavy, Terry Pearce, disagreed.  He read extracts from an email he had received which said: “This report, to put it mildly, is cobblers. 

“I filled one in, my son filled one in. None of us is over 55. What, with this and the questions that they asked, I can only conclude that the whole exercise was designed from the beginning to stitch us up and justify West Devon Borough Council walking away.”

Cllr Pearce suggested people were increasingly disappointed by the local authority on this issue. 

“There’s a lot of lack of trust now and confidence in the authority after what’s happened over a period of 15, 16 years.

“You know, the question now being asked is why was the original housing development not to take place when all the plans were drawn up? The architect’s plans and everything detailed and we’re just sitting there. 

“I’ve asked that question, the parish council have asked that question and we’ve not been given a proper answer at all.”

But director of place and enterprise for WDBC, Chris Brook, denied any deliberate attempt to scrap the project. 

“I too would be really emotional about it and cross and frustrated,” said Mr Brook. “And I think that’s totally justifiable and understandable. 

“But there is a big difference between being unhappy with the outcome, which is entirely as it says in the report, and considering that the outcome is in some way contrived to achieve an alternative motive or outcome, which isn’t the case.

As the council believed a case for affordable housing could not be justified on the site, it was recommended it did not progress the Brentor scheme further.

However, following questions and debate it was agreed a decision on whether to scrap the scheme or continue to pursue it would be made at another meeting.