“Developer in £13m legal wrangle with Northumberland now plans to take council to High Court”

“A property developer who launched a £13m legal bid against Northumberland County Council says it has been banned from sharing vital information with council members.

Newcastle-based Lugano Group was due to build the Dissington Garden Village – commissioned by Northumberland CC when Labour was in power in the authority – in a move that would create 2,000 homes north of Ponteland,
But since the Conservatives gained control of the area in last year’s local elections, the Dissington project has been put under review, potentially leaving the developer with significant costs reportedly totalling over £13,305,000.

The property firm this week claimed it had “no option” but to take the claim to the High Court against the council itself, leader Peter Jackson, Cllr John Riddle, and chief executive Daljit Lally.

Lugano has said that the council’s solicitors have disclosed the report into the contents of “several anonymous letters of complaints” regarding the conduct of Cllr Jackson and documents associated with that report— however, the information was disclosed 12 weeks after the request, and Northumberland only disclosed the documents subject to confidentiality provisions that bind Lugano.

In a letter to Northumberland CC dated 13 August, Lugano said the council’s solicitors had refused to provide confirmation the key pieces of information, noting that the lawyers are keeping information from council members confidential.

The property developer said that the only “reasonable inference” that can be drawn from the solicitors’ reluctance to disclose the information is that the council would attempt to sue Lugano if copies of the report were provided to the cabinet committee, and those tasked with reviewing the decision to indemnify the legal costs that will incur in defending Lugano’s proceedings.

“We strongly disagree with the council’s solicitors’ comment that they would have a cause of action against Lugano if we were to disclose the report and documents,” the letter said.

In a statement, Northumberland County Council denied all allegations, labelling them “inappropriate, untrue, and defamatory.”

A spokesperson added: “We are aware of further correspondence from the Lugano Group, and continue to take legal advice in this regard.
“As previously stated, we believe that the council has acted lawfully and reasonably throughout this process. We continue to work with Lugano on their live planning application for Dissington Garden Village.”


Do you have a Taylor Wimpey house? Check your mirrors!

“A house builder is checking wardrobe mirrors at a new development after one fell and ‘exploded’ near to where a baby normally sleeps.

Jennie and Joe Adams claim full-length wardrobe mirrors were ‘stuck on with tape’ at their new home in Gorebridge, Midlothian.

As a result, they say one of the mirrors fell off and crashed to the floor with a massive bang, leaving shards of glass everywhere. …

A spokeswoman for Taylor Wimpey East Scotland said: ‘We are very sorry to learn about the situation at our Harvieston Park development, and we have carried out a full investigation in conjunction with our wardrobe door installer to understand the circumstances.

‘We have apologised to the family involved and we have offered our assistance to resolve this matter for them.

‘As an additional precaution, and to provide comfort to other homeowners living at the development, we will conduct additional checks on similarly fitted mirrored wardrobe doors that could be affected to make sure this issue does not happen again.’


“Fears seafront consultation internet portal could stop third of town having their say”

“Concerns have been raised that plans for an online portal for consultation on the vision for Exmouth seafront could leave 30 per cent of the town unable to have their say.

Hemingway Designs has been tasked with coming up with a vision for ‘phase three’ of the Exmouth seafront regeneration scheme and it was revealed at a town council meeting the seaside specialists will soon be launching an internet consultation website.

At the council’s August meeting, concerns were raised that if this was the only form of consultation, nearly a third of residents in Exmouth would be left unable to have their say.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has since said there will be hard copies available for those without access to computers.

Speaking at the meeting, cllr Lynne Elson said: “My concern is that the majority of comments will be through the online portal.

“More than 30 per cent of residents in Exmouth don’t have access to online and if they do as suggested by EDDC and ‘go to the library’ they will have to pay as they will exceed the time allowed.”

Cllr Tim Dumper added: “We do need other ways of consulting.

“In the past East Devon (district council) hasn’t always covered itself in glory when it comes to consultation. “This time things are going very well.

“I wouldn’t like to let those 30 per cent or so down. Particularly involving residents who feel very strongly about our seafront and I think it would be wrong not to involve them fully in any consultation.”

A spokeswoman for EDDC said: “Hemingway Design will shortly be launching their survey to hear people’s views and ideas for this piece of Devon’s seaside.

“It will be easy to complete as you can do it online through the portal that Hemingway Design is setting up.

“When the survey is launched if you need access to a computer then you will be able to use the ones that we have in Exmouth Town Hall reception for free or paper copies will, of course, be available.

“The survey is being finalised at the moment and will be available soon.

“There will be an announcement to that effect.”


Cranbrook Town Council and EDDC at loggerheads over “country park resource centre”

“A bid has been launched by Cranbrook Town Council (CTC) to halt the building of the new country park resource centre.

The move comes a month after permission was granted by district planning chiefs for the 135sqm centre on land west of Stone Barton.

However, a report by CTC clerk Sarah Jenkins said East Devon District Council (EDDC) went back on an ‘understanding’ to adopt the country park resource centre, which its country park ranger would use it as a base.

However, EDDC cite the ‘economic climate’ and ‘availability of local authority funding’ as the reason it prefers to merge a number of facilities into a single building.

In her report, Mrs Jenkins said: “Under the section 106 agreement (private agreements made between local authorities and developers), the Consortium are required to provide a country park resource centre, hence the recent planning application.

“At the time, there was an understanding that EDDC would adopt the centre and their country park ranger would use it as a base. Since then, EDDC has decided that it does not want to adopt the centre.”

In January this year, councillors at CTC resolved to agree in principle that it would take ownership of the centre direct from the Consortium, once it is delivered.

They also resolved to enter negotiations with EDDC to determine the future role of the country park ranger and their future employment arrangements.

But in her report, Mrs Jenkins said: “The country park ranger has since left and EDDC has made the decision not to recruit a replacement ranger.

“Having been faced with the EDDC withdrawal, the town council has indicated to the Consortium and EDDC that it may not wish to have resource centre.”

At a meeting last month, CTC resolved to request the centre is not built and that the function of the facility and country park ranger be accommodated instead in Cranbrook’s future town hall.

Councillors also resolved to request that the section 106 funding for the country park centre be transferred to the town to provide other ‘much-needed’ facilities.

A spokesperson for EDDC said: “The section 106 agreement that secures developer contributions and obligations in relation to the country park resource centre and other infrastructure at Cranbrook was originally signed in 2010.

“At the time, it was envisaged that the town would be served by a number of individual buildings to accommodate civic and community uses.

“When the original legal agreement was approved, EDDC had been indicated as taking ownership of the country park resource centre.

“In the absence of having responsibility over any part of the country park, that now sits with Cranbrook Town Council, it was decided to offer the asset to the town council for adoption.

“From April 2018, Cranbrook Town Council adopted the country park in the town and is now responsible for its management and maintenance.

“A building housing the permanent offices of Cranbrook Town Council (as well as the library) is envisaged to be built on land immediately south of the country park in the town centre, a location where many of the functions of a country park resource centre could be accommodated.

“The community space element of the previously proposed country park resource centre could be accommodated in another community building and this could be part-funded by some of the monies that would have otherwise been spent on the centre.

“The Cranbrook country park ranger had been employed by East Devon District Council but the ranger left post earlier in 2018 and before the end of the developer funding for the position.

“A new legal agreement to pass the remaining funding to Cranbrook Town Council to enable them to employ a ranger to manage the land they have adopted is under way.

“In the interim there is currently no Cranbrook country park ranger in post.”


The new big out-of-town retail planning application near Cranbrook – the decision

The recommendation from officers, just announced, is for approval but councillors vote against that unanimously.

The application is REFUSED.

[However, it will almost certainly go to appeal/planning inquiry so this is not the last we have heard of it and there are three other similar schemes in the pipeline in the same area yet to come forward].

One of the objectors:

“Keith Lewis from Exeter Civic Society is speaking against the proposals.

“Many of the proposed retail outlets are too large,” he says. “We support the development of a local centre. These proposals seem to ignore established policy and the needs of local communities. “This application is worse than those you have refused before.

“Cranbrook has a planned town centre with development land in place. This jeopardises its establishment.

“A number of private bodies have asked you to refuse this application because it is not a local centre and we will also ask the same.”


“Cllr Percy Prowse expresses worry over the traffic impact “I’m trying to picture who would want to visit this new site,” Cllr Percy Prowse. “On Friday, I went to the environment department and asked them about how we had breached air quality results in the Heavitree corridor. “A new retail park would be very unsatisfactory.”

“Elderly should be housed in luxury developments with spas to keep them out of care home”

Owl says: Just one problem – in the whole glowing article the cost of these homes is never mentioned! You can be quite sure these homes will be out of reach for “ordinary” (ie not rich) people – rather like all other new housing.

“Traditional care homes will be increasingly replaced by luxury developments with spas, hairdressers and beauty salons in a bid to keep pensioners independent for longer, ministers say today.

The Government plans will see £76 million invested annually for the next three years in new homes specially designed for those who are frail, elderly or suffering from disabilities.

Health officials said the plans aim to keep people independent for longer – with their own front door, but more support on hand, with use of sensors and video monitoring to track the most vulnerable.

Housing developers will be able to bid for funds, from the programme which has already seen £315 million allocated to projects which design such homes. …”


A useful critique on new planning regulations (local councils stay silent on their views)

Why CPRE thinks it is a developers’ charter (again):