Village near Ilfracombe loses affordable housing after council error

A village in North Devon has lost affordable housing due to a council error.

The building permit for Lower Broad Park, in West Down, Ilfracombe, was approved in January 2016 and aimed to provide five affordable housing units to the local population. Despite this, residents learned last year that this requirement would no longer be met.

Stewart Bryant, the former landowner of what is now Lower Broad Park, has lived in West Down, Ilfracombe all his life and himself grew up in social housing provided by the village. Stewart read a speech to the planning committee in 2016 outlining his intention to provide five affordable housing units where locals could develop the community, which resulted in a section 106 requirement being added to the request.

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Section 106 attached to the building permit created the legal requirement for five affordable housing units in the new development, which could only be rented to tenants with an existing connection to the village. In addition, the request promised financial contributions to the community that would be used to make improvements to the village hall, local primary school, and community field.

In November 2017, Acorn Developments submitted applications for a drainage ditch, followed by a request for a design and layout change in August 2018. Upon signing these changes, North Devon District Council did not apply the requirement of section 106 to the new request. due to the surveillance of an agent.

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Stewart says the lack of board oversight throughout development has left his vision for the site in tatters.

He said: “The processes put in place by the District of North Devon are not fit for purpose. With the Section 106 agreement they should have been monitoring the site but they did not. They let it drift. “

“It’s such a great working community here and section 106 was really valuable to this community. It was our own opportunity to get affordable housing for the locals and have it snatched from us at the eleventh hour. was a big blow to everyone. “

“We all make mistakes, but I think the board should stand up and make it public that they made a mistake. I doubt we will have another opportunity to provide new homes here for the next 30 years and I think that ‘they’re now trying to sweep this under the rug. “

The properties first appeared on Devon Home Choice in September 2019. After learning they would be moving in by Christmas, potential local tenants were put on hold until spring 2020, before being told they would move in by Christmas. ‘a change in tenure removed the requirement for social housing.

Many of these potential tenants had already vacated their accommodation and were waiting in temporary vacation accommodation.

According to the report, the board only learned of the error in March 2020, when Acorn Homes contacted them to tell them that acting on legal advice, they believed the site was no longer tied to the restrictions. S106.

North Devon District Council and Acorn Homes have now agreed that an affordable house will now be sold with a payment of £ 106,500 to be made for community projects.

In a report to the planning committee on December 9, 2020, former Place manager Michael Tichford said: “An amending act should have been produced to amend the S106 agreement to relate to consent as it is. amended by subsequent requests. Unfortunately, this was not done, due to an oversight. “

Despite acknowledging the error, Stewart said many emails sent by residents and the parish council were ignored.

A spokesperson for the North Devon Council said: ‘It is confirmed that an error was made with respect to application 60385, which was an application to build 17 units on land adjacent to Pearldean, West Down, now known as Lower Broad Park.

The error was that the terms of a Section 106 agreement negotiated in relation to a previous application on the site were not carried over to that application. Subsequently, the developer, Acorn Homes, also did argue that the level of benefits guaranteed by the agreement could not be achieved by development.

These four houses were to become affordable homes for the people of the West Down

“The North Devon Council (NDC) and Acorn Homes did not agree on the legal effect of the error, but a compromise was found that some of the benefits that had previously been agreed would still be provided. in particular, an affordable housing unit and financial contributions totaling £ 106,500 were to be provided.

“These contributions are guaranteed under another Section 106 agreement that binds the land and is to be paid to community facilities and education. Although the triggers for making the payments have now been met, the payments have not yet been made by Acorn Homes and the board is currently corresponding with the developers to secure these contributions.

“The initial mistake was unprecedented and is greatly regretted by the board. This error has been recognized by the NDC in its relations with the parish council and with the local residents concerned and the council will continue its efforts to guarantee the described benefits ”.

Mark Thomas, Managing Director of Acorn Developments, said: “We have contributions to make and we recognize them.

“The program has lost money, so it has been more difficult to make these payments, but we are looking to make a payment on September 31, followed by a final payment on October 31.”

According to Cllr David Worden, head of the North Devon Council, 117 affordable housing units have been delivered during the pandemic, with 636 affordable housing units awaiting completion since May.

In her statement, Cllr Worden said the housing crisis in North Devon “requires a joint approach from local and national governments to address these issues and will require the honesty and commitment of all involved”.

Stewart said the council’s management of the development in West Down should not be repeated elsewhere in North Devon if he is to discuss housing as his highest priority.

He said: “There is a lack of affordable housing in the area and this is one example where the process has failed. The council talks about creating affordable housing in North Devon, but the way these developments are being managed must change.

“The affordable houses aspect of the development has been over and empty for at least 18 months. At that time it was a disgrace. Five empty and unoccupied houses with the housing crisis in North Devon.”

“I think their approach has been incredibly rude, especially towards our parish council. Our parish council is very passionate about the village, but throughout this situation they have been ignored and excluded.

“This is something that will affect our village for years and years to come.”

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