Thursday 18th June 2015

Community Hopes Dashed as alternate Plan not Financially Viable

South Devon Rural Housing Association – Press Release and Statement.
Proposed Brimhay Redevelopment Plans – Community led alternate Development Plans.
South Devon Rural Housing (SDR) has submitted an application for the construction of 12 affordable apartments and 12 homes for market sale on its site at Brimhay along with ambitious plans to include 8 apartments for people with learning disabilities. This proposal is intended to replace the 18 existing bungalows which have reached the end of their useful life. A number of options were considered but final plans were drawn up by Highway Field, award-winning architects based in Exeter. These plans had to ensure that the development would be fully self-financing for SDR. They were sensitive to the green environment in the area, preserving almost all the mature trees, and maintained the permissive footpath through the site for the benefit of all in the area. The plans had to ensure that full access was available for emergency and other services. A planning application for the development was submitted in January 2015.
The SDR Board were aware of objections from the local community and particularly the protest group, Don’t Bury Dartington (DBDUC). The Board therefore set out in a Board Statement on 28 January 2015, how the local community could contribute their ideas to SDR’s plans to redevelop the site. Along with the Board’s offer to consider written suggestions on our plans from the local community the Board offered to consider fully costed, alternative plans, which could be submitted by the local community.
Very few written suggestions have come forward from the local community, but the Association has considered comments posted on the planning portal, during and after the consultation period and made a response to those comments.
On Tuesday 2nd June 2015, the Brimhay Sub-Group and Chief Executive from South Devon Housing, hosted a meeting at which DBDUC and members of the local community, Parish and District Councillors along with Bob Tomlinson from the Living Village Trust, presented their alternative plan which had been circulated in the local media, and door-to-door in the parish prior to this presentation. Although the criteria set by SDR for submission was not fully met, the Board were happy to see and listen to the alternate plan promoted by the group.
There was much discussion on the merits and viability of the alternate plan as presented. All agreed that on paper the plan looked excellent with many qualities. However, it soon became clear when the figures and criteria were examined in more detail, that the plan was not financially viable for SDR’s development, which has to be self-funding. There were also issues with access for emergency services and other traffic issues. SDR left the door open to consider the plan further if Bob Tomlinson could demonstrate a financially viable alternative, but he agreed that it was unlikely their scheme could meet the tight funding, social care parameters required and constraints of the site. SDR has invested considerable time, effort and money in its ambitious plans to meet the needs of its tenants in redeveloping the Brimhay site as soon as practicable. This will continue to be our main focus. We will also continue to meet with Mr. Tomlinson (or anyone else) during this period to clarify and explore
other ways forward that are viable and fit the varied needs of the site. Community
expectations had been raised by the prospect of such an ambitious alternate plan but
unfortunately not enough consideration was given to the financial and other constraints of
this project. SDR has been working hard to replace Brimhay Bungalows with as much
affordable accommodation as it possibly could, over a considerable period.
It is unfortunate that community reaction to our plans has been so negative, but sometimes
because of our desire to meet our affordable housing objectives, we may be at odds with
some members of the local community. This has not been helped by the circulation of
incorrect information about SDR’s motives and rationale for the development.