Monday 3rd October 2016

SDR Chairman responds to Dartington Planning Application

 The Redevelopment of Brimhay Bungalows Dartington

In view of so much information – and mis-information – circulated about the Brimhay Development I thought it was time to set out the facts and present South Devon Rural Housing Association’s (SDR) position.

The Association believes that from day one we have followed accepted requirements for our planning application for Brimhay, Dartington.

  • Our rationale for the development was clearly stated – to maximise the number of affordable homes on the site and to offer as many of our existing tenants at Brimhay the opportunity to move to new, more spacious and energy efficient apartments which complied with the Decent Homes standard. This had to be funded in part by selling some houses on the open market. Overall the project was never expected to make money for SDR (which is a not-for-profit organisation) but was expected at least to cover the bulk of the costs.
  • With the planned Robert Owen Community (ROC) flats for people with learning disabilities, the percentage of affordable homes in the planning application is 62.5% This percentage is two or three times higher than for most other residential developments in South Hams. I read often in the local press of the shortage of affordable housing in South Hams, the small number being built and the difficulties those on lower incomes have to find satisfactory homes.
  • SDR held two consultations prior to submitting its planning application though these were poorly attended by local people in spite of advertising the events. Two additional public consultation meetings were held as well as a meeting with Bob Tomlinson of Living Villages and members of the Parish Council and Don't Bury Dartington Under Concrete (DBDUC). In the last meeting, the Association held the door open for some time for the local community to put forward alternative plans for the site and made clear that these needed to be fully costed and viable. The submission to the Association comprised a ‘concept plan’ which was not supported by detailed costings. Following further discussion, Mr Tomlinson agreed that the concept was unlikely to meet the site and financial requirements.
  • The Association has consistently offered to consider other suggestions based on our existing plans but none have been forthcoming.
  • Since then the only people to engage with the Association were the Dartington Parish Council, who, in December 2015, sent a representative to discuss further options with our Chief Executive. Our CEO advised that in the absence of clearly viable alternatives, SDR had no alternative other than to continue with its main plans. However, the Association would be willing to consider further the ROC part of the development, as at that time it was unfunded.
  • The Parish Council has not had any further contact with SDR, save their notice in February 2016 that they proposed to submit an alternative plan. In spite of criticism regarding SDR’s consultation, it is surprising that there has been no consultation with SDR as landowner on the Parish Council’s application. Others objecting to our plans for Brimhay have chosen to conduct their campaign in the media.
  • In response to feedback from the local community, SDR have agreed to fund 10 parking spaces for Brimhay Nursery which will take the pressure off the parking in Gidleys Meadow. This provision may not happen if the development does not go ahead in its current form.

More recently the development has been held up by the Judicial Review process and this has now been determined. Referring to the Totnes Times article of 10th August, ‘Brimhay homes battle set to continue despite ruling’ our responses are:

  • The new planning application for Brimhay – this is outline only and was submitted by the Parish Council, not DBDUC.
  • Refurbishing the bungalows for £220,000 – even if this figure does not include VAT it is clearly inadequate as after on-costs it represents only around £13,000 for each bungalow. Given that the bungalows are on average 10 square metres below the current space standards for social dwellings, each would need an extension. Each would need new roofs, heating systems, wiring, windows, doors, bathrooms and kitchens as well as insulating, re-rendering and redecoration. This would cost a great deal more than £13,000 per bungalow. In terms of prudent asset management, an investment of this kind would not be viable nor would we be able to find finance to undertake it.

We understand that a number of people in the Dartington Community are unhappy with our plans and it is of course their right to object. I note that the alternative outline planning application submitted by the Parish Council includes plans for 30 dwellings, (depending on the document you read) only two less that our plan so many of the objections raised against our plans must remain. It also includes for more vehicle use of the very narrow Forder Lane. The attached table makes a comparison between our application and the Parish Council’s and shows some of the areas in which the Council’s application is lacking.

One definite outcome from the delays, uncertainty and objections put forward by some members of the Dartington Community, is that sadly the community which was Brimhay has been largely destroyed as few of the original 18 tenants now remain. SDR wish to do the best it can for existing and future tenants, who are some of the most deprived people in our society. We aim to continue with this objective.

Rod Hewett Chairman
29 September 2016