Slash for cash bid on affordable homes in Honiton to be discussed at public meeting

An artist's impression of Baker Estates' Gittisham development. Image: Baker Estates.

An artist's impression of Baker Estates' Gittisham development. Image: Baker Estates. - Credit: Archant

A slash for cash bid proposed by a housebuilder behind a sprawling development in Honiton will be considered at a public meeting next month.

Baker Estates is offering a £500,000 off-site contribution if it can reduce the amount of social housing in an approved scheme at Hayne Lane.

At present Baker Estates is required to provide 40 per cent of the dwellings (120 units) as affordable housing in accordance with the original planning permission granted on the site in 2015.

However, the developer is now asking East Devon District Council to agree to reduce the affordable housing provision to 30 per cent or 90 dwellings, whichever is the greater.

This change would also affect the amount of financial contribution being secured for off-site open space, which would be reduced from £488,000 to £210,000.

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In exchange Baker Estates is offering an improved mix of houses on the site and £500,000 financial contribution towards off-site provision of affordable housing.

The proposals will be debated by district planners at Exmouth Town Hall on Tuesday, March 6, at noon.

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The planning officers’ report advises that while there is a chance that Baker Estates may not be able to successfully argue 25 per cent affordable housing provision as part of a new planning application, there is an equal chance that such a proposal would be acceptable should an application be submitted and determined on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

In addition, the planning officers believe that the viability of the site is such that it is unlikely that the council would be able to secure the current 40 per cent provision into the future, and that agreeing to the request will negate the need for a lengthy and costly planning appeal. This would enable the development to proceed as quickly as possible while providing 90, much-needed, affordable housing units.

Graham Hutton, Development Director at Baker Estates, said: “We think that we are making a very fair offer and are pleased that officers at East Devon Council are recommending it for approval.

“We have consulted at length with the local ward members, as well as with both Gittisham Parish Council and Honiton Town Council, to make sure that we get this right.

“What is now on the table is a proposal to provide 31 per cent affordable housing, as well as a far better mix of homes and a further £500,000 off-site contribution.

“This provides the best chance of securing the swift delivery of 90 affordable homes for the local area – it’s worth bearing in mind that fewer than 10 affordable homes have been built in Honiton in the past decade.

“A fresh application for this site would very likely only attract a 25 per cent affordable contribution under the latest policy.”

Cllr Mike Howe, Chairman of East Devon’s Development Management Committee, added: “It is important that this sort of decision is made in the public view, so that everyone can understand the issues at stake.

“It is about striking a fair balance, while ensuring that the right amount of affordable housing provision is made.”

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