Developer Bovis too poor to finish Axminster estate – and “steep slopes” came as a surprise (and Owl says ‘I told you’!)
Owl predicted problems with this development LONG ago:
Recall the site was acquired below market value when Axminster Carpets got into difficulty.
And it seems that Bovis has its own troubles:
Although again Owl drew attention to another problem affecting house sales on the site:
So, it’s hardly surprising we find that Bovis blames everyone but themselves for their so- called plight – though its directors are probably not too worried about their bonuses:
“HOUSE building on the Bovis Homes Cloakham Lawn estate could cease unless planning conditions are removed or eased.
Bovis Homes says the scheme is in the process of stalling and, unless it can be brought back into viability, the company will have “no option but to cease work and mothball the development”.
But Axminster Town Council feels it is an attempt by the developer “to wriggle out of its commitments”, with district councillor Ian Hall saying: “‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”
Bovis Homes has submitted a planning application to East Devon District Council (EDDC) to vary the Section 106 agreement (a set level of affordable housing and contributions towards the local infrastructure and facilities).
The development includes permission for up to 400 dwellings, and the company celebrated the second anniversary of its on-site sales office in September last year.
But a summary of an independent viability assessment, produced by chartered surveyor Belvedere Vantage Ltd, says: “The local market in Axminster has proved very difficult, with interest in the first phase of the development having slowed significantly, resulting in a large number of completed unsold ‘standing units’.”
The summary also referred to a number of physical constraints at the site, and “potential abnormal costs” associated with the constraints, which started to become clear during detailed site investigations after outline planning permission had been given.
Constraints include areas with very steep slopes, a flood plain boundary, two distinct drainage catchments, a watercourse running through the site, the need to maintain access to existing leisure facilities.
The negative impacts, including an inability to plan the scheme effectively, of a tree preservation order are also mentioned.
Axminster Rural district councillor Ian Hall, having declared an interest as he is the chairman of Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre (a Bovis Homes tenant), said in a formal response: “I have absolutely no sympathy.
“This land was purchased by Bovis for £2.9m cheaper than the market price when the failing Axminster Carpets Ltd was winding up.
“Bovis representatives (who were the strong arm of Bovis during the purchase of the land) were very aware of the agreements and were more than happy to proceed with the bargain of the decade.
“I am not one to make unnecessary fuss, although, on this issue, I will not compromise.
“ ‘Trying it on’ comes to mind.”
The independent viability assessment is confidential because it contains commercially sensible information, which is not included in the publicly available summary.
Axminster Town Council has requested more detailed confidential information and, in its formal response to EDDC, said: “The town council objects to this application, which appears to be an attempt by the developer to wriggle out of its commitments.
“There is insufficient information on which to make a well-reasoned response.”
The town council requested a meeting with EDDC and the developer so that it would be able to “respond in the light of more detailed, commercially confidential information”.
The town council also requested a site meeting in the company of a planning officer.
Town clerk Hilary Kirkcaldie said EDDC replied it could not share confidential information, but had appointed an independent viability consultant.
EDDC also expressed a willingness to host a site visit, which is yet to be arranged.
In her formal response to the application, EDDC housing strategy officer Melissa Wall said: “We are disappointed that the applicants have not approached the council before submitting their application to vary the S106 contributions to discuss their viability concerns.
“We are open to suggestions regarding changing the tenure and numbers of affordable units in order to assist viability.
“We are hopeful that agreement can be reached between the council and the applicant to ensure that the development can support some form of affordable housing.”
Bovis Homes would not say how many houses have been built and how many are under construction – nor would the company comment on Councillor Hall’s claims.
A spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on live viability applications but we will continue to work closely with the local authorities to deliver the new development at Axm- inster, which is providing much-needed new homes as well as an economic boost and jobs for the area.”
As revealed by View from Axminster but remains at District and County:
Priorities, dear boy, priorities!
Too late for the many people in Axminster and elsewhere in East Devon, sadly.
“The Competition and Markets Authority is examining payments between housebuilders and the providers of warranties for new homes as part of a review of NHBC, the largest warranty provider.
The CMA announced last month it was reviewing undertakings made by NHBC, the standard-setting body for new-build properties in the UK and the main warranty provider. These 22-year-old undertakings were designed to improve competition in the warranty market.
The review was announced amid concerns that NHBC is compromising its independence by paying millions of pounds to developers every year. However, the CMA said it was launching the review following a request from NHBC and that it would not consider the “wider issues” relating to the organisation. …”
Owl wonders how many affected homes are in East Devon, given the coruscating remarks made about the company here recently – particularly in Axminster by Councillor Douglas Hull, though Councillor Moulding did not seem concerned.
Oh, and Cranbrook … Cranbrook … poor, poor Cranbrook. Already with district heating problems, estate rents and garages too small for cars …
“Bovis Homes is being forced to pay £7m for “remedial action” to fix customers’ homes, after irate owners spent their own money fixing faults at newly built properties.
Angry homeowners formed a Facebook group with some accusing Bovis of pressuring them to move in to incomplete houses to hit sales targets.
Bovis’s boss on Monday apologised to customers for the poor quality of their houses and promised he would “make sure [we] finish their homes to their satisfaction”.
Earl Sibley, Bovis’s interim chief executive, announced the £7m “customer care provision” as home owners prepare to protest at the company’s annual meeting in Tunbridge Wells in May. …
… More than 1,400 have joined the Bovis Homes Victims Group on Facebook while others have posted a series of videos showing their poorly built homes on YouTube. Marc Holden, one of the group’s administrators, had said: “We are not going to stop our active campaign. There are a lot of unhappy people.
“We were getting a lot of people joining the group just before Christmas who were posting about being ‘encouraged’ to complete by 23 December, some were being offered money and other incentives.”
The company conceded that some customers were “offered an incentive to complete before the year end” but insisted that all of the homes were “habitable”.
Chad Clifton said he and his wife were “forced” to complete on their four-bedroom Bovis house in Brockworth, Gloucestershire, on 23 December and found the fridge had not been fitted and that the hallway was unfinished – just two points out of a list of 115 defects. They were offered £350 and a free move. “We were told we didn’t have much choice – if the house is ready we have to complete on 23 December.”
Rob Elmes said he was offered £3,000 if he and his wife completed on 23 December, but declined the offer because there were so many defects with the £320,000 three-bedroom property in Inkberrow, Worcestershire. “It became one of the most stressful weeks we have endured,” Elmes said. “[It was] not the Christmas we were hoping for.” …
Bovis is currently constructing all over East Devon, including in large numbers at Axminster, Seaton and Cranbrook.
The company has recently seen the creation of the Bovis Homex Victims Group Facebook site:
Could it be that this has also contributed to their woes?
“A City attempt to lay the foundations of a £5bn merger of Bovis Homes and Berkeley Group is on shaky ground, with Berkeley understood to have rejected the idea.
Schroders, Bovis’ biggest shareholder, wrote to Berkeley proposing an all-share merger following a difficult trading period for Bovis which claimed the scalp of its chief executive David Ritchie.
Bovis had issued a surprise profit warning at the end of 2016, saying that pre-tax profits were likely to be flat this year at between £160m and £170m, below analyst predictions of £180m, due to a slowdown in the rate of building and sales in December.
The string of events prompted Schroders to target a merger with Berkeley, which mostly builds homes in London and the South East. Bovis’ activity is also concentrated on that area.
But Berkeley sources said the company had dismissed the call, instead choosing to concentrate on growing through partnerships with the likes of the National Grid, with whom it signed a £700m joint venture to develop new homes on disused land owned by the power provider in 2014, rather than mergers.
Other housebuilders, such as rivals Redrow or Persimmon, could still be in the frame to buy Bovis, which has struggled in recent months with slowing sales of its homes amid wider market uncertainty.
Berkeley itself has not been immune to a slump in the market: last month it amended its five-year dividend plan to return some cash through share buybacks instead. It also said in December that the number of reservations for its homes had fallen by a fifth since the referendum, signalling the impact of the slowing London property market on the company.
It hit out at Government policy which it said was increasing demand rather than supply, saying while it had helped in some areas, it was having “a negative effect on the capital”.
Schroders declined to comment on the terms of its proposals.”