Exmouth “has too many retirement flats” – what, only Exmouth!

“The number of elderly people moving into new retirement developments in Exmouth is becoming unsustainable, town councillors have warned

Developer McCarthy and Stone is proposing 59 retirement flats on land to the south of Redgate, next to Tesco in Salterton Road.

Members of Exmouth Town Council’s planning committee were asked this week to reconsider plans for the scheme, which they had previously opposed, after additional information was submitted by the developer about why permission should be granted, on subjects including flood risk and land use policy.

However, councillors voted to continue their previous objections, which were on the grounds that site had been allocated as employment land in the East Devon Local Plan, and they felt Exmouth had reached ‘saturation point’ with developments of this type.

Councillor Brenda Taylor said: “All of that land up from Tesco is allocated as employment land.

“We need jobs here. I think we should again refuse it on those grounds.

“Years of work went into the local plan, and for what?

“They have got five or six properties in Exmouth already, and it’s a huge overload on our services.

“We can’t sustain these older people.”

Councillor Maddy Chapman said that an argument by McCarthy and Stone that employment would be provided by the development was not satisfactory.

She said: “When they say they are supplying jobs, and it’s going to be a care home sort of thing, the qualifications of people they employ, you cannot say it is a care home.

“For those number of flats, to say they are going to employ 15 people, you put them on a rota basis, and it’s absolute rubbish.

“Also we’ve got the other retirement flats being built up Drakes Avenue, so we’ve got two lots of flats going up. Who is going to look after all these people?”

Councillor Fred Caygill said: “If it’s not going to be employment land I would rather see affordable housing on the site, rather than I think probably the fifth McCarthy and Stone development in the town, which we cannot sustain.”

EDDC will rule on planning permission.”


Exmouth Water Sports Centre: Grenadier’s three days of consultation announced

Grenadier is holding consultation events at Ocean in Queen’s Drive on October 21 and 25, between 9am and 5pm, and on November 1 between 5pm and 9pm.

It says the proposed scheme would provide training and changing facilities alongside an outdoor events space and eateries, and is expected to provide services throughout the year.

The initial plans have been called “uninspiring” and protestors note that the illustrations do not show the Queens Drive road diversion as described by EDDC.

Exmouth water sports centre plans revealed

First thoughts?

Owl’s – well, it doesn’t look like it will win any design awards! Personally, Owl preferred the boating lake and swan pedallos.


Council’s £1 million overspend investigated; our council’s multimillion overspend on new HQ not investigated!

OUR council has already spent nearly that much on its satellite HQ in Exmouth. The Honiton HQ was supposed to be cost neutral with the proceeds of the £7 Knowle sale to PegasusLife but latest estimates (some while ago and not adjusted for post-Brexit soaring costs) was around £10 million.

How come SWAP could do this in Herefordshire but not in East Devon. Or why KPMG – its new auditors – are not doing it now?

A special investigation into how the costs of establishing a joint customer services hub in a refurbished building soared from £950,000 to more than £1.9m has found evidence that officers “knowingly disregarded council process and procedures”.

The investigation into the Blueschool House refurbishment was carried out by the South West Audit Partnership for Herefordshire Council. The local authority has been working with the Department of Work and Pensions on the project. Have we ever seen the (updated) business case for the new HQ?

The business case for the hub was approved by the council’s Director of Resources on 13 May 2016 and the key decision taken on 2 June 2016 was approved by the Cabinet Member Contracts and Assets.

The SWAP report said: “Overall the council’s normal governance processes have not been followed by key officers involved in the Blueschool House refurbishment.

The key decision did follow the correct governance process however the business case to support the key decision lacked clarity over what works would be included in the £950K agreed financial envelope.

“It would appear that key staff including senior officers at Director level were aware of the council processes and procedures but these have not been applied during this project and there is evidence that officers have knowingly disregarded council process and procedure.”

The investigation found that although there were early indications from the framework provider that the project could not be delivered within the financial envelope even with value engineering, key officers failed to report this to Cabinet.

The report also said:

The rationale for the selection of the contractor could not be demonstrated as there were no records to support this. The property services team had responded to client requests without providing robust challenge, and had not followed the council procedure rules in relation to procurement.

The relationship between the property services team and contractors appeared to be informal for a capital project of this value and throughout the project there was little evidence that value for money could be demonstrated.

In line with the capital guidance, major projects should be overseen by a project board. The Accommodation Programme Board had oversight of the overall accommodation strategy until November 2016 however, there was no project board for the Blueschool House refurbishment project.

The timescale of the project was identified as a major risk in the business case as the project was subject to a time constraint pressure due to the DWP serving notice on their current property. This was a key factor in ensuring the project was progressed and had contributed to the overall poor governance.

The SWAP report said it was “for management to consider and determine whether any further action such as disciplinary action, should be taken against individual officers as it is clear there has been disregard for processes and procedures which has resulted in a significant overspend on the project”.

The report was due to be considered by the council’s audit and governance committee at a meeting this week (20 September).”


Is there enough oxygen at Oxygen House?

Owl is intrigued by just how much oxygen there is in Oxygen House, Grenadier Road, Exeter Business Park, Exeter EX1 3LH


and whether it will be enough to allow everyone working there to breathe it in.

The building is shown here as home to 16 companies:


Of course, it is the headquarters of Grenadier, the preferred developer of the Exmouth watersports centre and Grenadier is shown as having, or having had, no less than eight companies there.

Grenadier Exmouth has five directors, who share 37 directorships of other companies also based at Oxygen House and more companies in different parts of the country (for example head honcho Mark Dixon has 17 of his 20 directorships based in the building and other directorships of other companies in nearby properties on the same business park).

The building’s blurb says:

“The Oxygen House group invests in environmental rebalance on which building a prosperous society depends. A dynamic mix of established companies and start-ups, our specialities include venture capital & private equity, impact investment, property, renewable energy & clean tech, education technology, city planning and data analytics.

Our business model mobilises financial, scientific, mathematical and engineering expertise to address the following urgent goals:

A carbon-neutral society. This will be based on MWs of both renewable energy produced and demand reduced by more prudent energy consumption.
An overhaul in educational standards through shrewd, patient investment in radical data technology.”

AND it is a friendly place for all based there:

“Oxygen House enables individuals and our partner companies to develop and flourish. Literally we’re a shared physical space. Conceptually we’re a mutually supportive value system. Emotionally we’re a family of likeminded companies and individuals. And our commitment to common goals is unshakeable.”


But less obvious is the “shared physical space” and individual connections with “Greater Exeter” and, through that link, to other interests pertinent to East Devon.

For example, “Exeter City Futures” is also shown as having its base there:


and one of its directors is Exeter City Councillor, Rosie Denham.

“Exeter City Futures” describes itself laudably thus:

“Exeter City Futures goal is to make the Exeter region congestion free and energy independent by 2025.”

However, Councillor Denham is also an Exeter City Council signatory to one of the major “Greater Exeter” documents, “Exeter and Heart of Devon Economic Partnership Strategy 2017-2020”:


Exeter City, East Devon, Mid Devon and Teignbridge are the partners in that. (Quite how Councillor Denham will make Exeter energy independent without pushing its problems on to the other areas of the partnership, including East Devon, in which she is involved will be very challenging for her)!

Shown also as a director of “Exeter City Futures” is Glen Woodcock. He is a director of no less than NINE companies registered at Oxygen House (plus 5 others elsewhere). He shares several of these directorships with Grenadier boss Mark James Dixon – director of Grenadier Exmouth.

Mr Woodcock is also a director of “City Science Corporation” also based at Oxygen House which includes a description as “Management consultancy activities other than financial management”

Owl feels it would be possible to go on and on almost infinitely with these “six degrees of separation” links that bind the individuals popping in and out of Oxygen House and the companies that exist, parallel and overlapping in the building.

But suffice to say, there must be an awful lot of oxygen (and possibly hot air) in the building!

So, you’re thinking of buying a Knowle PegasusLife flat ….

Peggy Browning bought a new retirement flat in Devon [Exmouth] priced at £206,450 nine years ago, at the age of 89. After her death last year, the property passed to her two daughters. It is now on the market for £125,000 and is proving difficult to sell. Until a buyer is found, Lyn Field and her sister have to pay the £190 a month (£2,282 a year) management charges on the flat, even though it is empty.

Their story highlights the potential burden of retirement properties for buyers’ descendants. A significant number have lost value in recent years and come with hefty charges that fall on those who inherit the homes.

Sebastian O’Kelly of the campaign group Better Retirement Housing said: “Newly built retirement flats have an appalling reputation for value on resale. This family’s example is by no means unusual.”

Almost two-thirds of new retirement homes bought at a similar time to Browning’s were resold at a loss, research by the charity Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) suggests. By contrast, the average price of a UK home has risen by more than 40%, Land Registry figures show.

Adam Hillier of EAC acknowledged that buyers were prepared to pay extra for new properties, but described the number of such homes that had fallen in value as “surprising”.

£206,450 The value of Peggy Browning’s flat when she bought it in 2008
£125,000 The price her home is on the market for today
£190 Monthly charges that must be covered by her daughters

Additional costs typically include ground rent, paid to the freeholder, and exit fees, calculated as a percentage of the value when the flat is resold. Hillier said exit fees could be as high as 30% in developments offering care in the home and facilities such as shops and subsidised restaurants.

Browning bought her flat in the seaside town of Exmouth from McCarthy & Stone, Britain’s leading retirement home developer. The company said: “We are sorry to hear about the fall in value [of Mrs Browning’s property]. We recognise there are a small number of cases, particularly with our older properties and those sold in the recession, where the resale values of some apartments have not performed as well as we would have wished. This can be down to many reasons, including the performance of some local property markets. … ”

Sunday Times, pay wall

Some councillors value party over people … and they are all Conservatives

“Knowle Council Chamber yet again rang with cries of “Shame” from the public gallery, as entrenched Party allegiance took precedence over East Devon’s wellbeing, and the Motion of No Confidence in the EDDC Leader was lost by 31 votes to 18.

Of the 32 Tory members present (there were some notable absences, including some who had distanced themselves from Diviani), one abstained and 31 voted against. The Motion, called by the Independent Group, was supported by strong and clear arguments condemning Diviani for his conduct at the Devon County Health Scrutiny Committee*. As Cllr Roger Giles (Ottery St Mary) spoke of it as “a day of shame and infamy”, adding, ”In 26 years on this Council, I cannot think of a single occasion where a Leader has gone against his Council”.

Condemnation came from Council representatives far and wide across the District, to frequent applause from the crammed-full public gallery. Cllr Ben Ingham (Lympstone), who had called the Motion, pointed out why Diviani’s conduct had failed “all of the 7 Nolan principles in one go”, indicating how “This council continues to fester under a pernicious Leader”. Cllr Val Ranger (Newton Poppleford and Harpford) reminded Members that “We relied on Paul Diviani”, and arguing that “He does not understand the role of his own Scrutiny Committee.”

Cllr Cathy Gardner (Sidmouth) sympathised with Tory Councillors now finding themselves “between a rock and a hard place” (as they’d voted unanimously for the decision that their Leader had then ignored), and asked them, “Are your principles with your Party or with the people of East Devon?”

Cllr Geoff Jung (Woodbury) put his support for the No Confidence Motion succinctly, “Cllr Diviani agreed to take our vote to the DCC meeting, but he voted the other way”. Cllr Cllr Marianne Rixson (Sidmouth-Sidford ) said, “He’s betrayed everyone. How can we trust a Leader who ignores us? When will he do it again?”. Cllr Susie Bond (Feniton & Buckerell) reported her own town council’s “unanimous and extreme dismay”. Cllr Steve Gazzard (Exmouth) reasoned that “The Leader has got it totally wrong” . Cllr Peter Burrows (Seaton) said, “Councillors should support Community first, Party second.” Cllr Peter Faithfull (Ottery St Mary) drew attention to the central issue that “The personal views of one councillor (Diviani) is not what this is about. It’s whether we can have confidence in him”.

In contrast, contributions from the Conservative Councillors supporting their Leader, seemed to be largely out of focus. Cllrs Mark Williamson , Geoff Pook, Ian Hall and others, spoke mainly about NHS difficulties, some citing personal stories at some length. There were frequent calls of “irrelevant” from the public.

The Chair made no attempt to remind them of the wording of the Motion they were there to debate, but cautioned the public on several occasions, that hecklers would be removed.

So many members of the public had registered to speak, but the time allocation of 15 minutes in total, meant that several questions could not be put. The Chair, Andrew Moulding (Axminster) did however ensure that one question to the Leader, from East Devon resident, Jane Ashton, was answered straightaway. Here it is, with the response.

Jane Ashton : “When members of the public stand up for democracy, honesty and representation, to accuse them of being politically motivated is disrespectful. Would you acknowledge that?”

Paul Diviani replied that he “doesn’t recall himself ever saying these words. I would not like to be seen to be disrespectful in any way.”

The Leader’s reply might perplex the public who were there last night for the second Extra Ordinary Meeting concerning the fate of the Exmouth Fun Park.

Full report on both Extra Ordinary Meetings on the Devonlive news: