“How Bristol is standing up to developers”

East Devon developers do not disclose their viability agreements – EDDC thinks they should remain confidential because they contain “commercially sensitive information” yet Bristol disagrees and publishes theirs.

Baker Estates in Honiton have been allowed to reduce the number of affordable properties, using such a confidential document.

“Last autumn, campaigners scored an unprecedented victory. The target was “viability assessments”: dossiers produced by housing developers to justify the amount of affordable housing – or lack thereof – in their developments, and which are frequently used during the construction process to shrug off previous commitments.

“Developers were saying, ‘We can’t afford to put 30-40% affordable housing in here,’ to make the profits they are legally entitled to,” says Louise Herbert, spokesperson for Bristol-born tenants union Acorn. “But all of their numbers – how much they projected to sell the houses for, how much they bought the land for – were redacted.”

Acorn, along with the Bristol Cable media co-operative, campaigned for the full release of these files. Following a public outcry, the council voted to make the viability assessments public.

Now, Herbert says, the public can examine these assessments themselves, and make sure that more affordable housing is built in their areas.

In response, Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation (HBF), argues that those without formal training “may feel that the figures set out in such assessments are ‘too high’ or ‘too low’ and make representations and decisions accordingly, rather than based on the evidence.”

For now, it’s too soon to tell if publishing the viability assessments has achieved change in Bristol. But it’s a small step that could point the way for cities such as London, where viability assessments remain pervasive, or Manchester, where in contravention of the city’s own guidelines, none of the nearly 15,000 planned new developments have any provision for affordable housing.

Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, believes that it sends a signal to developers: “We’re a great city to do business in – but we want the right kind of money.”

Councillor Paul Smith agrees. “Housing can’t be left to the market if you want to meet the housing needs of the whole city,” he says. “There are 500 families in temporary accommodation, 100 people sleeping rough on the streets, huge numbers who are inadequately housed, and people living in poor-quality, high-rent accommodation.”…


“Planners back REDUCTION of affordable homes in Honiton”

“… Councillors voted by 13 votes to one on Tuesday afternoon to allow the application, but not until Cllr Jenny Bond asked the committee to remember the 26 affordable homes and the families who would miss out when voting on it.

She had earlier added: “We have lived and breathed this application for many years through gritted teeth but this is disappointing as there is a real need for affordable housing in Honiton and Gittisham. The current offer is 90 affordable with £500,000 offsite, which equates to four houses, so the net loss is 26 families in desperate need of an affordable house who have to wait.

“With my heart I would recommend refusal and vote against it, but my head says that we have to vote with the recommendation and not waste public money on appeal. But to lose 26 affordable houses is unforgivable.”

Cllr David Barratt said: “I will propose approval as we need to vote with our heads on this one, even though affordable housing is incredibly important.”

The committee was told by development manager for EDDC Chris Rose that the applicants have submitted the request as they believe that current planning policy would support a reduction in the provision of affordable housing down to 25 per cent, if a new planning application were to be submitted.

The planning officers’ report advised that while there is a chance that Baker Estates may not be able to successfully argue 25 per cent affordable housing provision as part of a new planning application, there is an equal chance that such a proposal would be acceptable should an application be submitted and determined on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

Graham Hutton, Development Director at Baker Estates had said: “We think that we are making a very fair offer. We have consulted at length with the local ward members, as well as with both Gittisham Parish Council and Honiton Town Council, to make sure that we get this right.

“What is now on the table is a proposal to provide 31 per centaffordable housing, as well as a far better mix of homes and a further £500,000 off-site contribution. This provides the best chance of securing the swift delivery of 90 affordable homes for the local area – it’s worth bearing in mind that fewer than 10 affordable homes have been built in Honiton in the past decade.

“Only by reaching agreement at the local level today is it possible to offer a package this generous, as the costs of appeal or a new application would prohibit it. An agreement today will allow us to continue delivery of the homes and this will make a huge difference to Honiton and Gittisham.”


Oh, what a surprise! Another poor, poor developer at Hayne Lane, Honiton

One presumes that Councillors Diviani and Twiss are aware of this, having declared hospitality from Baker Estates in September and December last year:



“Developer requests reduced affordable housing provision on residential development at Hayne Lane, Honiton

Local planning authority will consider offer from Baker Estates to provide improved mix of houses at Hayne Lane development plus £0.5m contribution towards off-site affordable housing

East Devon’s Local Planning Authority (LPA) has received a request from Baker Estates to amend the amount of affordable housing that they provide on their development of 300 houses on land to the west of Hayne Lane in Honiton.

The request will be considered after 12 noon at the next meeting of East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee on 6 March 2018, which is being held at Exmouth Town Hall

East Devon planning officers are recommending that the request be agreed.

As present Baker Estates is required to provide 40% of the dwellings (120 units) as affordable housing in accordance with the original planning permission granted on the site in 2015.

However, the developer is now asking the LPA to agree to reduce the affordable housing provision to 30% or 90 dwellings, whichever is the greater. This change would also affect the amount of financial contribution being secured for off-site open space, which would be reduced from £488,000 to £210,000.

In exchange Baker Estates is offering an improved mix of houses on the site and £500,000 financial contribution towards off-site provision of affordable housing.

The applicants have submitted this request as they believe that current planning policy would support a reduction in the provision of affordable housing down to 25%, if a new planning application were to be submitted. While they are offering less than the 40% affordable housing provision currently secured, they are offering more than the 25% they believe they would be required to provide if a new planning application were submitted.

The planning officers’ report advises that while there is a chance that Baker Estates may not be able to successfully argue 25% affordable housing provision as part of a new planning application, there is an equal chance that such a proposal would be acceptable should an application be submitted and determined on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

In addition, the planning officers believe that the viability of the site is such that it is unlikely that the council would be able to secure the current 40% provision into the future, and that agreeing to the request will negate the need for a lengthy and costly planning appeal, enabling the development to proceed as quickly as possible while providing 90, much needed, affordable housing units.

The report can be viewed on the council’s website:


Cllr Mike Howe, Chairman of East Devon’s Development Management Committee, said:

“It is important that this sort of decision is made in the public view, so that everyone can understand the issues at stake. It is about striking a fair balance, while ensuring that the right amount of affordable housing provision is made.”

Baker Estates – developer of the moment at EDDC?

For the ‘reserved matters’ decision on the first phase of their latest estate at Gittisham (outline approval was granted against local opposition in 2014, before the Local Plan was adopted), EDDC’s Development Management Committee was supplemented by rarely-seen EDDC big-wigs. Development Officer, Chris Rose, who normally presents applications to the committee, was joined by EDDC’s Solicitor, Henry Gordon Lennox, and Development Manager, Ed Freeman, to counter the objections of a single representative of Gittisham Parish Council even though ward member, Independent Susie Bond, voiced her reservations.

New-kid-on-the-block Bakers was ably supported by Councillor Phil Twiss, Cabinet Member for Economy, who said that ‘£50 million’ would be generated for the local economy by the development. Bakers’ Tom Hammond was seen to give Councillor Twiss a cheerful wave as he left the meeting.

The Parish Council and Councillor Bond were both concerned about three 3-storey blocks of flats, built at the highest point on the site, which will tower over 2-storey houses built lower down. These blocks, of course, will house the ‘affordable’ dwellings which Bakers are (so far) obliged to build (though as with many local developments these days this is subject to change if they find the condition too onerous at a later stage), and so they have been shoe-horned into the smallest possible space, leaving more room for the profit-earning properties for sale on the open market.

The local representatives felt that the blocks were out of keeping with the setting – a feeling that other members appeared to share. However most seemed swayed into allowing the development – with only Independent Matt Coppell and the two Liberal Democrat members voting against.

Bakers say that they now have a ‘track record’ in East Devon. However, as far as we know, they have only two other approved developments in the district, both in Seaton – at Barnards Hill Lane (not yet commenced) and at Rowan Drive – where residents are said to be complaining to EDDC on an almost daily basis about alleged breaches of planning conditions by Bakers’ builders.

Gittisham, keep your eyes on this development.