Friday 30th January 2015

SDR releases a statement regarding redevelopment plans for Brimhay Bungalows.

Proposed Brimhay re-development, Dartington. 

Statement from the Board 28 January 2015.

Following various media reports and contact from some members of the local community, the Board wish to clarify the facts surrounding the decision to apply for planning approval for the redevelopment of Brimhay Bungalows, Dartington. The Brimhay bungalows were (and are) costing more and more to repair on a day to day basis and the replacement of major components was either overdue, due now or due in the very near future. The Association therefore decided that the only option was to demolish and replace the existing Bungalows as they had come to the end of their economic life. 

The Bungalows were developed jointly by Totnes Rural District Council and The Dartington Hall Trust to provide accommodation for retiring estate workers.  Designed in the 1950’s they were built from 1960 onwards. Over the years the properties have been improved as far as the design would allow. In 1995, plans were prepared to extend, improve and increase the number of bungalows on the site but the scheme was not sufficiently viable to attract the necessary funding.  Subsequently the association has continued to apply for grants to further improve the properties but none were awarded.  The Association has also considered joint ventures but none proved to be viable.

 ‘The Association is formed for the benefit of the community and its objects are to provide housing, accommodation and assistance to help house people …’  This primary purpose of the Association has been guiding the Brimhay redevelopment plans, which have included:

·         Maximising the number of replacement dwellings;

·         Building to modern standards, which will be fit for purpose now and in the future;

·         Ensuring that the development is affordable to the Association as there is no prospect of subsidy;

·         Ensuring the maximum number of tenants, who wish to, remain on Brimhay and that decant procedures minimise the need to move people multiple times;

·         Building to the best standard we can achieve with the funds available. 

Our internal and external viability exercises showed we needed 11 or 12 houses to be sold on the open market to finance the development.  The reason for this is that we are demolishing assets which currently bring in approximately £70,000 of income, and would need to spend (overall) about £1.6 million developing the site including providing the replacement affordable homes..  The only access to the site (at that time) was Forder Lane and our planning consultant advised the access was unlikely to meet Highway requirements for planning purposes.  We approached the Dartington Hall Trust to see if we could acquire access from Gidleys Meadow and eventually a deal was struck to allow SDR to purchase the access road and a further ½ acre behind the Brimhay Nursery, to facilitate the development.  Both organisations being of Charitable status, independent valuations were undertaken and the purchase agreed.

Despite obtaining the additional land, in order to maximise the desired number of affordable dwellings, it was necessary to include two small blocks of flats in the project. One of the blocks is for an 8 flat supported housing facility for people with learning disabilities. Although of three stories, the highest roof line of any of the buildings is only one metre higher than that of the nearby Forder Lane House.

The Association first began to advise Brimhay residents of the Associations plans over two years ago. The Board decided to re-let empty bungalows on shorthold tenancies, informing all new tenants that they would need to find alternate accommodation at some time in the future. We have been consulting with our tenants from that time but as final plans had not been agreed it did take some time before we were able to show plans similar to the ones now subject of the planning application. Over the years since the Board decision to progress redevelopment plans, a number of tenants have moved on for one reason or another leaving the Association with 11 longer term tenants.  In recent weeks as the planning application was submitted, one-to-one meetings have taken place with all tenants outlining their rights and the support and compensation available to them.  Whilst we recognise most would rather stay where they are, this is a strategic decision the Board has made to ensure the housing is fit for purpose for the next 50 years and most understand that.

In relation to community consultation, the Association is committed to consulting with the community and to that end has been guided by the expectations of the planning department. With our planning consultant, we met with South Hams planners after a pre-planning application was made. We met on site and were guided in how we should conduct the community consultation. Two initial consultation meetings were planned, advertised and held on site at our care home, Forder Lane House. Following those events our Chief Executive wrote an article for the Dartington Messenger and attended a meeting in the Village Hall on 14th June 2014 (which was advertised through the Dartington Community Action Group, with 150 email recipients). More recently at the request of the Dartington Parish Council, the Chief Executive met on site with the Parish Council and local residents followed by a question and answer session in the Village Hall lasting over an hour. From this meeting the Chief Executive prepared a report to the Board, prompting this statement. The Community of Dartington is important to the Association and we have demonstrated that in many, many ways, not least of which was a financial contribution to kick start the Dartington Community Plan which our Chief Executive spent 3 years working on up to 2011.      

South Devon Rural Housing Association is regulated by The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and therefore our primary responsibility is to comply with the rules of regulation. As part of that regulation the Board must manage its assets, including land, effectively. The HCA are promoting the use of brown field sites like Brimhay, increasing density where possible in order to reduce the need for greenfield sites. The ‘loss of village green’ suggested in certain objections is counter to the idea that less should be built on the site. The small green spaces at Brimhay are effectively the front and back gardens of the bungalows and the upkeep is paid for by tenants. The footbath through the site is permissive and the Association will maintain that in the proposals for the site. The Association is happy to receive ideas from the local community and also professionally costed alternative plans which would achieve the same objectives as the current proposals. Any member of the local community who has a view or an idea to put forward, should in the first instance, write to the Chairman of SDR at South Devon House, Babbage Road, Totnes TQ9 5JA.

There is an urgent need to tackle the bungalows now as they are unlikely to be re-let in their current condition. The Association has invested a substantial amount of money to get to this stage and has been very successful in raising funds to complete the development – the supported housing facility alone should bring an inward investment of £1.4 million to Dartington from an investor specifically wishing to invest in projects of social value.  

The Association has to ensure that tenants have housing that is fit for purpose for its tenants now, but also in the future.  We are also obliged to preserve as much affordable housing as we can and meet the expectations of our regulator, The Homes and Communities Agency. 

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