Cranbrook will grow to 8,000 homes over 15 years

Owl says: and still it has no town centre and developers refuse to fund one!

“Feedback on how Devon’s newest town, Cranbrook, should grow and develop over the next 15 years, goes before councillors next week.

The Cranbrook Plan: Preferred Approach’ document sets out how the growth of the town up to around 8,000 households over the next 15 years will be achieved.

A community consultation ran for eight weeks from mid-November last year to early January and it gave residents of Cranbrook and its neighbouring communities the opportunity to comment on the proposals for the future of the town contained within the document ‘Cranbrook Plan: Preferred Approach’.

In addition to identifying land for new houses, the document also identified land for sport and community, economy and enterprise, schools, allotments and Gypsy and Travellers pitches. …

Outline planning permission for the first 2,900 homes at Cranbrook was issued in October 2010 followed shortly by the reserved matters for the first 1,100 homes in April 2011. Today there are approximately 1,700 households living at Cranbrook, equivalent to a population of around 4,000 people, but the Local Plan anticipates Cranbrook comprising approximately 7,850 new homes by 2031. This equates to a population of around 20,000 people meaning that Cranbrook will have quickly expanded to become the second largest town in the District.

The consultation revealed that there is a concern over relationship with properties at Broadclyst Station, who are keen to retain a separate identity, that the East Devon New Community partners say that the Treasbeare area could accommodate a minimum of 1,000 dwellings as opposed to the 800-950 stated in the masterplan, and that there should be a school in both of the Bluehayes and the Treasbeare area of Cranbrook..

On transport issues, the responses reveal that the delivery of a half-hourly rail service is a key ambition of the plan in order to encourage use of rail travel as an alternative to the car, but that despite the wishes of residents for the old A30, the B3174 London Road to remain as a bypass to developed, it is scheduled to be downgraded from its current status and to become an integral part of the town. …”

MPs profess shock at £817 million housing underspend

Owl says: Let’s say each affordable home cost a very generous £200,000 – that’s just over 4,000 affordable homes! If we went down the prefabricated route and homes were £100,000 that’s just over 8,000. Cranbrook currently has about 3,500 homes. Scandalous.

“MPs are demanding an urgent explanation from ministers after being told that £817m allocated for desperately needed affordable housing and other projects in cash-strapped local authorities has been returned to the Treasury unspent.

The surrender of the unused cash has astonished members of the cross-party housing, communities and local government select committee at a time when Theresa May has insisted housebuilding is a top priority and when many local authorities are becoming mired in ever deeper financial crises.

On Monday the committee, which discovered the underspend for 2017-18, will interrogate housing minister Dominic Raab and homelessness minister Heather Wheeler on the issue, before Tuesday’s spring statement by the chancellor, Philip Hammond. He is under heavy pressure from MPs, and the Tory-controlled Local Government Association, to signal extra help for the local authority sector, which has seen budget cuts of around 50% since 2010.

The acting chair of the committee, the Tory MP Bob Blackman, said: “We will be wanting to know why this very large sum has not been spent at a time of great strain on local authority budgets, and why it was not channelled to other spending projects. It does not help those of us who argue that more should be given to local authorities if the chancellor knows money he gave last time has not even been spent.” MPs believe they can argue for more for local authorities because Hammond will announce that unexpectedly high tax receipts have left the Treasury with a windfall of between £7bn and £10bn.

Speaking on Saturday night, the chancellor said the government had gone a long way to put the public finances back in order and was now able to pump more into services, including housing: “We’re making good progress on building the homes this country needs with, last year, a 20-year record high for housebuilding. This is how we build an economy that works for everyone.”

But Helen Hayes MP, a Labour member of the select committee, said it was “astonishing” that money was lying unspent when the number of social homes built by local authorities from government grants had dropped dramatically since 2010. “This is the biggest issue for families up and down the country, including in my Dulwich and West Norwood constituency,” she said. “It is simply astonishing and unacceptable that there is so little urgency being shown.”

For the last 30 years, councils have cut back council housebuilding in the face of severe budget cuts. Local authorities have also been discouraged from building by the government’s “right to buy” scheme, which allows tenants to buy council properties at a 40% discount.

Hundreds of councils have set up their own property development companies to build homes and get around the rules. But progress has been slow, in part because of the threat from ministers that they might extend the right to buy to the new council-owned companies.

Shadow housing minister John Healey said housing and local government secretary Sajid Javid’s department had also failed to spend £220m of funding allocated to affordable housing last year. “Sajid Javid needs to explain why he is selling families short by surrendering much-needed cash for new homes,” he said.“If the secretary of state can’t defend his department’s budget from the Treasury he should give the job to someone who can.”

A housing ministry spokesman said: “We are investing £9bn in affordable homes, including £2bn to help councils and housing associations build social rent homes where they are most needed.

“All of the affordable housing underspend from 2016-17, including £65m returned by the Greater London Authority, has been made available to spend on similar schemes.”

Last week, the National Audit Office estimated that 10% of unitary authorities and county councils have less than three years’ reserves left if they continue to deploy them at current rates, leaving them vulnerable to potential insolvency.

The Tory chair of the health and social care select committee, Sarah Wollaston, said action was needed urgently: “NHS public health and social care need a boost now, but also a long-term plan to provide the funding they need and a clear plan to set out how the money will be raised.”

Labour will counter Hammond’s claim that the public finances are on the mend by calling for an emergency budget to address the funding crisis hitting Tory- as well as Labour- and Lib Dem-run councils.”

Swire says developers “gamed” Cranbrook to its detriment and Neighbourhood Plans aren’t working!

He says developers refused to create a town centre because there weren’t enough people living there! He says the council is now having to step in to rectify this!

Owl thinks that perhaps there are not enough people living there (question: how many is enough?) because there is no town centre!

Car insurance problems at Cranbrook? Cranbrook Herald asks for information

“Cranbrook Herald

“What’s been your experience of getting car insurance in Cranbrook?

Has it been easy, with no problems and affordable premiums, or has it been difficult, with high premiums to pay?

Tell us your stories – good and bad.

Please email Cranbrook Herald reporter Paul Strange at
with your views.
Please include your contact details.”

Cranbrook problems continue

According to this month’s Cranbrook Herald:

People are up in arms about the estate rent charges, already extensively reported by Owl.

Town councillors say young people are consuming too many energy drinks and, as a result, are “off the wall” on caffeine.  They are pressurising the Co-op to put a lower age limit on purchase of the drinks.

Cranbrook will have its own district councillors in elections in May 2019 – three of them – perhaps they will be able to plead their case to EDDC..

Residents worry about the visual impact of extending Cranbrook to the south as well as to the north.

Cranbrook Herald reports on estate rent charges

Owl broke this story on 2January:

Now Cranbrook Herald has taken it up:

“The unexpected demand for payment caused uproar on social media, distressing many during the festive break.

One resident said the company which sent the letter was using ‘scare-mongering tactics’.

Another said the matter was a ‘disgrace’.

The estate and asset management company Blenheims sent the bill on behalf of the Cranbrook Consortium and FPCR (which provides the town’s landscape and horicultural services).

In the letter – delivered to all Cranbrook households on Friday, December 22 – Blenheims explained that the annual Estate Rent Charge (ERC), which meets the cost of maintaining the public open spaces and amenity areas had been reviewed.

Previously set at £150 per annum – based on an ‘historic and initial assessment of the annual costs’ – the Consortium had increased the ERC to £231.76, to reflect actual accounting figures. These suggested that the total costs of the 2017-18 ERC were £370,816. Split between 1,600 properties, this came to £231.76 per household.

In many cases, the £231.76 demand was reduced to £194.26, taking into account an initial quarterly ERC instalment paid by residents of £37.50.

The letter implied that the £194.26 needed to be paid in one sum. There was also confusion about when the money needed to be paid, with some residents believing it had to be within 10 working days.

There was no suggestion of being able to pay in instalments (although Blenheims has since said that there are three payment dates – January 22, February 1 and March 1).

Having received their bills, Cranbrook residents found Blenheims had shut for Christmas, and initially there was no one available to discuss the issue.

At the request of Cranbrook Town Council (CTC), the Reverend Lythan Nevard – Cranbrook’s minister and a Belonging to Cranbrook Facebook moderator – offered advice for residents, posting her thoughts on social media.

On January 2, CTC posted its own advice on its website, describing the timing of the letter as ‘unfortunate’, and Blenheims has since issued a ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQ) document.

“I think the timing of the Blenheims’ letter was poor at best,” said a Cranbrook resident, who did not wish to be named. “Some people were concerned that if they just cancelled their direct debits, they would end up with bailiffs at their door after Christmas.”

“It was a disgrace to receive a letter demanding payment of £231.76 within ten days, and especially at this time of the year,” said another resident.

In its FAQ to residents, Blenheims said the payment demand was issued on December 22 in advance of the next collection date, December 25, and was ‘in accordance’ with residents’ ERC deed.

It also issued advice for those that had cancelled their direct debit or hadn’t returned their mandate and explained why the ERC was being increased and why residents – who are already paying council tax – were being charged for ERC.

Neither Blenheims nor the Consortium have provided the Herald with further comment on this matter.

CTC is currently finalising details of taking over the town’s ERC. If draft agreements are approved, from April 6, 2018, the ERC will be paid as part of EDDC’s council tax, with any increase in the element of the council tax payable to CTC.”

Cranbrook estate rent charges 2

(See post below also)

From a correspondent:

Wain Homes (55 properties) and Cavanna Homes (19 properties) have their own Estate Rent Charge which will remain in place but they will pay the higher CTC precept

The Town Council had indicated a willingness in principle to take on the public open space on both sites. Wain Homes remain subject to enforcement because of failure to complete the public open space and we met with them in the summer of 2017 to discuss this.

If they complete the work CTC could adopt the public open space. Hopefully local residents on the site will press Wain Homes to do this.

Cavanna have passed their public open space to a management company but undertook to have talks to have the public open space transferred back so that CTC could adopt it. In both cases the ball is in the developers’ court.”