Plans for 36 apartments approved in Sidmouth - despite ‘insulting’ offer

Green Close care home site in Sidford. Ref shs 43-16TI 0480.CR2

Green Close care home site in Sidford. Ref shs 43-16TI 0480.CR2 - Credit: Archant

Plans to build 36 sheltered housing apartments for the elderly in place of a former Sidmouth care home have been approved – despite attempts to renegotiate an ‘insulting’ offer of just £41,000 towards ‘affordable’ homes.

Councillor David Barratt called for the decision to be deferred so officers could get a bigger contribution from developer Churchill Retirement Living.

But the application for Green Close in Drakes Avenue was approved, with development management committee members pointing to an ‘overage’ clause that will see East Devon District Council (EDDC) share in the profits – if they are more than currently projected.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Sidmouth Town Council planning committee chairman Ian Barlow said: “Churchill has an industry-beating operating profit margin of 30.5 per cent. Now they are turning round and saying they have bought this land and that they have proved it cannot make a profit.

“Perhaps they have magic builders and cheaper bricks than all the other builders. Or it could be that they are conning councils with this information they give them – that they have to believe – that makes their profit greater.

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“A message should be sent that it’s no longer acceptable to rob the communities that they make their profit from. It’s just wrong.”

The £41,000 referred to is a section 106 payment – cash meant to mitigate the impact of developments and fund improvements such as ‘affordable’ housing. Sidmouth Town Council said the offer of £41,000 was ‘an insult to the community’. Cllr Barlow told Tuesday’s meeting Churchill should pay at least £10,000 per apartment. The developer is proposing to build 36 apartments in place of the 23-bed Green Close care home, which was run by Devon County Council until it closed in 2014.

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Cllr Barratt, EDDC’s Sidmouth Rural representative, said the £41,000 payment offered was ‘totally unacceptable’.

Calling for officers to look again at the figures, he said Churchill had made a section 106 payment of more than £470,000 for a similar project in Torbay.

But Chris Rose, EDDC’s development manager, said each application had to be considered on its merits and comparisons cannot be drawn between different sites. He said Churchill was not claiming that the development would not be unprofitable, and it is likely to make 20 per cent – but making a bigger section 106 payment was not viable.

If it makes any more profit than currently projected, the overage clause means the council will get 50 per cent of this. The meeting heard that the clause has been in place for two years and has yet to yield anything for EDDC.

Mr Rose said officers do not just take a developer’s figures as read and use resources such as property website Zoopla to check prices. He added that looking again would reach the same conclusions.

Members voted to approve the application.

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