Council tax hike planned for second homes and empty houses

Second home owners in East Devon will have their council tax doubled if planned Government legislation goes ahead. 

 “In East Devon we have a shortage of properties to enable people to rent or potentially purchase and stay and live/work in the area. 

 “If this change frees up empty properties to come onto the rental or purchase market then I and my cabinet colleagues welcome that.” 

(Bearing in mind that only seven per cent of that increase would go directly to EDDC as the bulk (73 per cent) would go to Devon County Council and the remainder to the police and fire service.) – Cllr Jack Rowland

Philippa Davies

Under the plans by East Devon District Council (EDDC) the owners of empty houses will also be charged double rates after just one year of non-occupation, instead of two. 

The proposals were agreed by the district council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, January 4, with the final decision to be made at the next full council meeting on Wednesday, February 22. The aim is to introduce the extra charges in April next year. 

The changes are subject to the Government signing off the relevant legislation under its Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. 

District councillors are supporting the charges to encourage owners to bring empty homes back into use for the local community. 

The higher tax could also help make up for the money lost through reductions in council tax for lower income households. 

Councillor Jack Rowland, EDDC’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “This change, if the parliamentary bill receives approval and full council accept the cabinet recommendation next month, would be effective from April 2024 so the people affected by the change will have a full year’s notice of the change. 

 “In East Devon we have a shortage of properties to enable people to rent or potentially purchase and stay and live/work in the area. 

 “If this change frees up empty properties to come onto the rental or purchase market then I and my cabinet colleagues welcome that. 

“Where the people affected by this change may still choose to keep the property empty or as a second home, then the additional council tax they would have to pay will help ensure the current services provided by EDDC will be maintained, bearing in mind that only seven per cent of that increase would go directly to EDDC as the bulk (73 per cent) would go to Devon County Council and the remainder to the police and fire service.” 

The full Cabinet report can be found on EDDC’s website

Decisions about housebuilding should be made locally – Simon Jupp

Dear Simon,

The baseline housing target the EDDC coalition has inherited is 64% higher than needed to satisfy demographic growth trends and “normal” levels of inward  migration

This is the consequence of  the Tory “Build, build, build” strategy pursued by Conservative controlled EDC for decades.

The late Paul Diviani, alongside the faithful Philip Skinner, was the architect and driving force behind the current Local Plan, adopted in 2015, which was based on an aggressive development target of 950 houses/year, driven by a “jobs led policy on” scenario. 

In fact only around 580 houses/year were required to satisfy purely demographic growth trends. 

This is a Tory uplift of 370 or 64% and is the “poison chalice” that the coalition has inherited.

If the council goes is to go back to the drawing board, as you suggest, then you might like to “have a conversation” with Blue Leader Cllr Philip Skinner.



Simon Jupp MP

The Conservative government wants decisions about homes to be driven locally. Councils should therefore be working hand-in-glove with the communities they serve to ensure homes are built in the right places with the right infrastructure.

Last month, the Secretary of State set out some welcome breathing room. Councils will be able to calculate housing need as a starting point but ultimately must consider how to protect the characteristics of each area – be that precious countryside, the character of an area, or heritage. There is no truly objective way to calculate how many homes are needed in an area and, since becoming an MP in 2019, I’ve repeatedly told Ministers that East Devon’s housing figures were the product of fanciful Whitehall algorithms.

Too often, it feels like communities have to grin and bear new housing development. My postbag has been full of complaints about East Devon District Council’s proposals for where homes should be built because they won’t help people stay in their own communities, reduce travel, or keep families close together. We must build new homes, but they must compliment the area, not concrete all over it. 

That’s why as your local MP I have responded to East Devon District Council’s Local Plan consultation – particularly to reflect concern among residents of north Exmouth, Lympstone, Farringdon and West Hill. I’d warmly encourage you to have your say too. Visit The consultation closes on 15 January.

Residents in north Exmouth and residents in Lympstone are extremely alarmed by the volume of development that is getting proposed, effectively merging the two historic towns together. I’m meeting with the Northeast Exmouth Residents Group again this week to look at the plans in depth.

Farringdon villagers stand to have a new town of 2,500 homes built a stone’s throw away. The parish is the most severely impacted of all in East Devon. I’m sitting down with residents here too, because I want to make sure their voice is heard.

The council should go back to the drawing board. The power is now in their hands to make the right calls, thanks to the Conservatives.

Former East Devon leader dies following long illness

In the words of “Blue Leader” Cllr. Philip Skinner:

Cllr Diviani was ‘instrumental’ in the creation of the Greater Exeter Strategic plan – although the council eventually pulled out of the proposed arrangement with other neigbouring councils in 2020 – and he praised his ability to “see the bigger picture.”

“He balanced providing good services but at the same time of course driving our economic agenda, which is the agenda I very much wish to promote myself.”

Owl remembers Paul Diviani, alongside the faithful Philip Skinner, as the architect and driving force behind the Tory “Build, build, build” strategy. This resulted in the current Local Plan having a development target of 950 houses/year, based on an aggressive “jobs led policy on” scenario.  Where only around 580 houses/year would be required to satisfy purely demographic growth trends. 

This is an uplift of 370 or 64% and is the target that the current EDDC coalition has inherited (is lumbered with).

Remember this when you read the next post on Simon Jupp’s position on local housing targets.

Former East Devon District Council leader Paul Diviani has died following a long illness.

Rob Kershaw

Mr Diviani joined East Devon District Council in 1999, becoming leader in 2011, a role he held up until he stepped down in 2018. He had also served on Devon County Council, representing Honiton St Paul’s, as well as being a board memeber of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, chair of the Blackdown Hills Area of Natural Beauty, and numerous other public service or community roles.

He joined East Devon Council at the same time as the district’s current Tory leader, Cllr Philip Skinner, a friend both in and out of politics, who paid a heartfelt tribute to him on Friday.

“Paul Diviani was a very selfless man,” said Cllr Skinner. “He was a man who was never critical of other people; he was more concerned about doing good things.

“He had a very good insight to vision work, and he was very much a strategic thinker. Strategic, not just in the planning process, but strategic in the way that the council should operate, and the way that it should run.

“He balanced providing good services but at the same time of course driving our economic agenda, which is the agenda I very much wish to promote myself.”

Cllr Skinner said that Cllr Diviani was ‘instrumental’ in the creation of the Greater Exeter Strategic plan – although the council eventually pulled out of the proposed arrangement with other neigbouring councils in 2020 – and he praised his ability to “see the bigger picture.”

The Conservative leader for East Devon describing Cllr Diviani as a ‘lovely, lovely man.’

Why did a perfectly good care home, and a Cottage Hospital close in Budleigh?

This comment from Anthony Rowcraft was posted a few days ago:

“A perfectly good care home, Shanford, in Budleigh Salterton was closed a couple of years ago amid much controversy and speculation as to who would benefit. Elderly patients were moved out against their wishes and staff given notice. It’s still empty!!!! Could it be reopened rather than using hotels??”

This has prompted Owl to commision an investigation into the current situation.

This investigation indicates that, despite attempts to sell  the unoccupied “Shandford” it  is still owned by Julie Rhodes of Agency Assistance who bought it at auction from Abbeyfield at the height of the Covid epidemic in December 2020.

To recapitulate the history of Shandford:

Shandford started as a care home in 1958 for local people funded by the people of Budleigh Salterton. In 2012, the trustees ceded it to Abbeyfield under a covenant that should Abbeyfield sell the property then the proceeds should be returned to “the people of Budleigh Salterton”

The closure was based on Abbeyfield’s declared aim of “freeing up assets” as it changes its business model to concentrate on larger homes; and County Councillor Christine Channon’s handpicked adviser, Chris Davis, who claimed that Shandford was no longer viable. Owl understands Chris Davis’ report has never been made public.

A local community effort to take back control failed despite the intervention of newly elected Simon Jupp MP.

During this process Owl received plausible arguments that showed that there were grounds to challenge the case for non-viability.

However, it now seems the proceeds (less expenses) have been returned to “the people of Budleigh Salterton” by way of the charity: “the Shandford Trust” registered just over a year ago.

A search of the Charity Commission web site reveals:

THE SHANDFORD TRUST – Charity 1192048 at year ending 31 December 2021 expended £696 on charitable activities, retaining £728.30k for future use.

“The Trust provides grant funding to older people for their accommodation or care, particularly those in financial need, those who are frail or with disabilities, who live in Budleigh Salterton, East Budleigh, Otterton, Colaton Raleigh or Bicton. It is indiscriminate as to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.”

The charity commission lists Christopher Haward Davis as Chair of trustees. 

Dr Richard Mejzner is also listed as another of the eight trustees. It is Interesting to note that Mejzner is also a trustee of two other charities: LEAGUE OF FRIENDS OF THE BUDLEIGH SALTERTON HOSPITAL; and the recently registered SEACHANGE DEVON. This would seem to be the CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) now running the old BS Cottage Hospital, previously managed by Westbank as a “Hospital Hub” (a hospital without any beds).

Sarah Hicks is Chair of Trustees of Seachange Devon and is also currently CEO of Westbank Community Health and Care. It’s a small world.

Is Budleigh about to lose its “hospital” as well?

Budleigh Salterton was one of the first hospitals to lose all its hospital beds which served as a convalescent stepping stone between acute care and returning home. It was retained as a “hospital hub”.

Of further interest is the fact that this hospital site has not only been offered up as a potential development site in the draft EDDC Local Plan (by the freeholders Clinton Devon Estates?), but has been allocated as such. Under the terms of the lease, the site reverts to the freeholder when it is no longer used as a hospital.

Below is an extract from  the Site Selection and Settlement Boundary Setting (under Tier 3 settlements)

Settlement: Budleigh Salterton 

Site reference number: Budl_06 

Site Address: Budleigh Salterton Community Hospital, East Budleigh Road, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, EX9 6HF

Accessibility assessment: Budl_06 is within 1600 metres of at least 8 different types of services and facilities, including a GP practice, community hall, post office, pubs, shops and a primary and school. The site is close to an hourly bus route. Pedestrian access into the town centre is available along safe walking routes.

Other known site constraints: The site is currently used but the NHS as a health and wellbeing hub, providing local employment and a community facility.

Site opportunities: It would be possible to convert existing buildings to residential use. 

Amended Maximum Yield following discounted areas on site: 20

Brief summary of the key positives and negatives of the site: Budl_06 may provide an opportunity for conversion of existing buildings and some new development on a brownfield site very well related to services and facilities if it is no longer required for community use.

Should the site be allocated?     YES

4,560 new homes plan for Devon – draft Teignbridge Plan

East Devon is not the only one drawing up plans, but Teignbridge’s target looks “modest” compared with the East Devon Total of 6,615 – see calculations shown below the paragraphs on Teignbridge. – Owl

Daniel Clark (Extract)

A blueprint for future development across Teignbridge to meet housing need for the forthcoming future has been published. The draft Teignbridge Local Plan, which would shape development in Teignbridge until 2040, outlines where and how homes in the district will be built.

The draft plan sets out new land allocations for 4,560 homes, with about a quarter of all new properties to be affordable and more homes built for people with mobility issues. This is in addition to land previously allocated for development in the current Teignbridge Local Plan. About 65 hectares of land is allocated in the draft plan for employment sites while two sites are identified for gypsies and travellers.

The plans includes three major expansion areas to existing settlements. Land is allocated at Bradmore, west of Houghton Barton, on the outskirts of Newton Abbot, for approximately 1050 homes. This is in addition to the 1,800 homes for the area already allocated in the existing Local Plan.

On the edge of Exeter, approximately 900 homes are planned for Markham village, which will be created as a small new village, which will sit in green surroundings, between the villages of Ide and Shillingford Abbot. A mixed use development of approximately 750 residential units at Peamore, as part of the West Exe Business Park, near to the M5 is also proposed.

Sufficient land will be made available in this plan to increase the rate of new housebuilding to an average of 741 homes per year. All new-build open market homes on allocated sites, whether occupied as an owned, rented or leasehold home, will be occupied as a primary residence, as secured through a legally enforceable mechanism.

Under the draft local plan, brownfield sites would be prioritised to help regenerate town centres while most new homes would be located close to jobs, services and sustainable transport. Some small development sites are also identified in larger villages where new homes would help sustain essential local services.

The approximate distribution of new homes across the district will be: • Newton Abbot and Kingsteignton Garden Community – 37% • Edge of Exeter – 46% • Coastal and rural towns – 5% • Villages – 12%

For details of the individual town and village proposals see

For East  Devon the new housing target is 6,615 calculated as follows:

The Government set out minimum numbers of homes that should be built each year. In December 2020 the Government advised that the figure for East Devon should be at least 928 new homes per year (but it is subject to year on year review). It is marginally below our current local plan policy that identifies a need for an average of 950 homes to be built each year. It is also considerably lower than the figure of 1,614 homes per year that a now abandoned Government proposal, from autumn 2020, generated.

Analysis from a base date of 1 April 20209 shows a projected 11,945 extra homes will be built in East Devon under the current local plan up to 31 March 2031. A 20 year requirement (from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2040) at 928 homes per year would give a grand total of 18,560 homes needed. Deducting 11,945 already projected to be built from a need of 18,560 leaves a residual figure of at least an extra 6,615 new homes up to 2040. 

Time running out to have your say on future development in East Devon