LATIMER DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED
GENUINELY AFFORDABLE HOME EXAMPLE - This Land Rover is carrying water that is poured into deep holes dug in the soil by a digger to determine drainage of the land. You can see the old Generating Works in the background, dating from C.1909. This historic asset, and many groups in the locality derive their water supply from an ancient well that is at the foot of this slope. To the right of the 4x4 is a registered public footpath. There are other common-law footpaths in the area that we do not think Wealden's officer mentioned to their Councillors who, if that turns out to be the case, were being asked to make a decision based on incomplete information. We also believe that the National Planning Policy Framework document dating from 2012, was not adhered to in connection with conservation issues. Copyright photograph © June 28 2018, Herstmonceux Museum Limited. All rights reserved. You may not copy this picture except for educational use.
Latimer Developments Limited is a company that develops building projects and sells and rents houses. They are working with the Clarion Housing Group Ltd and Thakeham Homes Group Limited on a proposed development at Herstmonceux in East Sussex. This site is in the Wealden District, with Herstmonceux Parish Council and Wealden District Council both approving the development on an outline basis with a narrow vote of just one to tip the balance in favour of approval.
As you might imagine from the mix of house builders and developers, there is perhaps more than meets the eye to the inter-company dealing and agreements where the site is thought to have changed hands for around the £3 million pound mark (to be confirmed). That's an awful lot of money for a site that is supposed to deliver a mix of market value and affordable housing and where Clarion advertise the development as being worth £21.5 million pounds for seventy homes.
That equals = £264,286 per house, minus the infrastructure levy, or community charge of £3,500 per unit (averaged) = £260,786 per dwelling unit. Build per unit (averaged) is likely to be £150,000 including roads, drainage and other services, making the profit £110,786 x 70 units = £7.75 million pounds. A fair chunk of change for the controlling mind and other shareholders to dibby up. That sort of figure is hardly worth spoiling an ancient well, historic view and other public places.
CLAIMS IN DAMAGES
It is likely that with any conditions imposed and based on the current site plan from 2015, that herbicides and pesticides will contaminate the ancient well that supplies water to a number of concerns in Lime Park, and cause a loss of opportunity as to bottling local water as a means to provide funding for the upkeep of Herstmonceux Museum, a building of significance in the development of man leading to the age of electricity and a monument included on a Protection Programme from 2000 onwards.
The ancient well provides water that is exempt from water rates that would otherwise be charged @ around £200 per annum, 100 years supply = 20,000.
Bottle water sales @ 100 x 52 x £3 x 100 yr supply = £1,560,000 million pounds. Multiply sales x 300 units a year and the loss of opportunity rises to £4,680,000 by way of a potential damages claim, to which must be added a sum for damage to the historic environment.
Given that Wealden had not included any conditions in relation to the ancient well, but included water and contamination in Conditions: 6, 14, 15, 26, 27, 28 and 30, we must assume that the planners had not thought about the potential harm they would be causing in granting permission on this Greenfield site. The same applies to the consultees, surveyors and others compiling reports to be used in connection with the application - and to persuade the members of Wealden's Area Plans South Committee, Susan Stedman as Chair, to grant this permission in outline form.
It must then be that those reports and the comments of the Council were insufficient and unreliable insofar as being able to make a properly informed decision. Where any decision based on incomplete or inaccurate information is held to ultra vires as per R v Canterbury City Council (ex parte Springimage Ltd) 1991.
We wonder then at the inbuilt perils for the developers of this site that potentially face claims in damages and/or judicial review on an ongoing basis as fresh evidence or information comes to light.
POTENTIAL FRAUD INVESTIGATION
We wonder if all of the appropriate declarations were made at the various committee stages of decision making.
We know that the District Planning Officer, Kelvin Williams, misquoted the law as it applies to developments in the country in at least one other case that was quashed by the High Court on application for a Judicial Review. This officer is retiring in the next 12-24 months. It would be worth looking at the pay of those officers with significant controls within the council, and cross link that information with bank accounts and any development where they had an interest in. We also know that the Parish Council had a relation of a local building company present when they voted on the matter. Similar checks might be applied locally and at district and county levels, where ESCC Highways lodged no objections to an access that is demonstrably substandard.
The case officer at Wealden is Mrs Claire Turner. At least one of the affected parties have spoken with Mrs Turner and written to the this Council seeking clarification and assurances. This includes Robert Standley, the Leader of the Council, and Charles Lant, their Chief Executive. We understand that the new District Planning Officer is Christopher Bending.
WATER CONTAMINATION - If houses are built on the hill that supplies the last surviving well in Herstmonceux, all of those who presently enjoy a sustainable water supply are likely to be poisoned by pesticides from the gardens of the proposed housing. In addition, where the hard standings of a proposal for 70 houses are to be gully drained to a point lower than the twin wells, soakage that supplies the wells will be diverted away potentially starving the wells of water and increasing pesticide accumulations from the proposed garden areas. The amusing cartoon above portrays the situation that perhaps the developers were not aware of, when they bought into a situation that they should have been able to rely on - if there had been a competent appraisal by Wealden District Council, the County Archaeologist and the Environment Agency. Unfortunately, the council concerned and the advisers to the original applicants appear to have been less diligent than they might have been in the rush to profit from a windfall situation. The developers in this case are confirmed to be: Clarion Housing Group, Thakeham Homes and Latimer Developments. Previously, the site was owned by Tim Watson and then Gleeson Developments. We understand that Mrs Claire Turner and Christopher Bending are two of the planning officers now with responsibility for this application which reached the detailed (reserved matters) stage in August of 2018.
The subject of village over-development is high on the agenda in 2018, where such development is unsustainable in climate change terms, as per the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). For example, where carbon miles are important, nobody seems to have considered that without additional school places, a bus will have to pick up and transport children from Lime Cross, to other schools in the area.
The original application was filed in 2014 under the name of Tim Watson. This was withdrawn and an identical application filed under the name of Gleeson Developments. Clarion took over at some point in 2018, presumably, giving instructions to Thakeham to investigate the site and conclude a 106 Agreement with Wealden as to drainage.
feel sure that the rush to push this through no matter what corners are
cut will give grounds for the Secretary of State to consider calling in
the grant, for a review of how this application was passed on incomplete
information, but the failure to take note of the National Planning
Policy Framework as to sustainable development. We are after all trying
as a country to meet the targets set by the Climate
Change Act 2008.
WD/2015/0090/ HERSTMONCEUX VILLAGE CONDITIONS A - Z INDEX
SPREAD AND SCALE
POSSIBLE REASONS FOR CALL IN OR JUDICIAL REVIEW - There are many reasons to doubt the validity of the grant of planning consent on this site where Kelvin Williams was the officer presenting information to the Area Plans South planning committee, and his presentations concerning Berwick have been shown to be ultra vires. We do not yet have the recordings of Mr William's assertions but are looking into obtaining a copy to review what was said to the members of this council and if the law quoted was accurate.
For one thing, it appears from this aerial photograph that there are many more public footpaths than are shown on the ordnance survey maps. We are hoping to gather more information as to different years and testimony from persons who have lived in Herstmonceux for over 20 years.
Proposals for sewage disposal appear to us to constitute a serious health risk and may well be unsustainable. This was a windfall site, not part of the quota for Herstmonceux village, which goes some way to explaining why it is that there are no schooling places for the children of the proposed residential development. Is this kind of over-development sustainable? Hardly.
- "Clarion Housing Group’s private development company, Latimer, will deliver 70 new homes near Hailsham in East Sussex.
According to their website .....
CLIMATE CHANGE ACT 2008 & THE NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK
The Climate Change Act 2008 spells out the standards for emissions that add to global warming. These include houses that are as near energy self-sufficient as they might be and electric or other zero carbon vehicles.
The objective is to get the United Kingdom below 1990 emission levels by the year 2050. It's a tall order no matter how you look at it, requiring new houses to be built with energy harvesting features, none of which are evident on any plans as we write and must be included. Especially where Clarion claim to endorse sustainable policies.
ABOUT HERSTMONCEUX VILLAGE & PLANNING APPLICATION WD/2015/0090/MOA
The village at Herstmonceux is served by a very few local shops and one junior school that is overloaded. Locals are being priced out of the housing market steadily - a trend that is not in accord with a sustainable society. How then will a dubious windfall grant of permission for seventy houses that were not in the local plan, suddenly find the services for those houses - where services are already stretched? Most villagers believe that this was a moment of madness on the part of the Area Plans South Committee, where they followed flawed guidance from Kelvin Williams, quite possibly as was granted in the village of Berwick, but was undone when a Judicial Review revealed flawed advice from Wealden's planning officers.
The original application to develop this land was filed in December 2014 in the name of Tim Watson and (possibly joint) land owner Sue Goldsmith. This application was withdrawn and a second identical application was filed in January of 2015 in the name of Gleeson Developments Limited. The proposal was approved subject to negotiations as to reserved matters which included drainage for the 70 houses proposed.
According to Wealden's Administration & Technology Manager, the applicant, Clarion Housing Group is working with Thakeham Homes Ltd, a company that appears to specialise in village developments, as far as we can see from their website. This is not surprising given the veritable land rush in 2014-2015 when councils were handing out consents like confetti hoping to make up for their lack of foresight in the provision of affordable housing in years gone by.
According to their website: "MJ Gleeson plc specialises in urban housing regeneration and strategic land trading. Latest Share Price: £ 567.00p at 11th January 2016." It is important to note the "Land Trading" element in the context of planning approvals that may have been pushed through on a very narrow margin and with some advice by planning officers that was not full, contained misquotes as to statute and the Local Plan, and failed to advise on other material considerations.
TRENCH DIGGING - Thakeham Homes Group appear to have ordered this series of trenches to be dug, to conduct a series of drainage tests, where water is poured into the trench and the rate of absorption measured. The deal between Thakeham Homes and Clarion Group is yet to be defined. No doubt an audit of their accounts will reveal this in due course.
Apart from the fact that there are no places at the local school and public transport is one bus every hour from Stagecoach - with journey times to Eastbourne of around an hour, Herstmonceux benefits from a very rare generating building from the turn of the century that is now a working Museum, and that Museum is linked historically to the Windmill at Windmill Hill. At the moment you can see across the field from the public footpaths to both buildings - one of the rarest views in the world - and a reminder of the days when windmills ground flour for a local bakery to bake the daily loaves.
This generating building relies on water from an ancient well and the well is at the foot of the hill on which Gleeson Developments would like to build around 70 houses. A blot on the landscape maybe, but it gets worse. Water from the hill feeds the ancient well. It follows that any land contamination from the construction process, or in years to come from the domestic development, will filter down to the water table and enter the well water. The water level in the well rises and falls with rainfall from the gently sloping hill. There is no escaping this fact. But so far there have been no assurances or confirmation of a Bond to cater for future claims.
CALIFORNIA - GROUND WATER CONTAMINATION - The
town of Hinkley, California,
located in the Mojave Desert, (about 121 miles driving distance
north-northeast of Los Angeles) had its groundwater contaminated with
hexavalent chromium starting in 1952, resulting in a legal case against
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and a multimillion-dollar
settlement in 1996. The legal case was dramatized in the film Erin
Brockovich, released in 2000.
That would mean that every person buying a house on this field would be first in the chain of litigation claims. All the householders would need to do is allow herbicides and pesticides from their gardens to enter the watercourse. The same goes for engine oils and paints.
Knowing that this is sure to be a future issue, the Museum operators will need to constantly monitor activities in the field next door to be able to prove who the culprits are. The house owners, even if they are at fault, will then need to claim against their house insurance - and they may well find that they are not covered where no 106 Agreement exists and there is no Bond to cater for contamination claims. If their home insurance covers claims against negligent development, and/or the grant of a permission that then proves to be void, their homes would have to be demolished. In such cases the developers would need to compensate the home buyers for not making appropriate provision and/or otherwise safeguarding the planning consent.
It may also be that where this field suffers from flooding at the other end, that has to be provided for at the design stage, that remedial and preventative drainage is likely to alter subsoil water flow characteristics - leading to wider claims, such as with landslip. It all depends on the soil characteristics and geological strata juxtaposition.
At the moment the local authority are being asked to explain which of their officers provided information to the committee who passed the application. Other questions also need to be answered as to Declarations of Interest, since this application was passed by only one vote. It may well be that after scrutiny, the planning consent is deemed to be void. Members voting on applications need to do so on an informed basis. If there is any failure to advise on the part of the officers, such as Kelvin Williams, the district planning officer. The Chief Executive officer of this council is Charlie Lant.
In light of the above, every stage of the construction process will need to be monitored to be sure that if the development goes ahead despite the know issues, that there is a photographic record of who did what. We are off to a good start with exploratory holes being dug at the top of the hill near an specimen oak and another exploratory hole or trench being dug not many feet from the ancient well.
FOR THE RICH & THOSE ON BENEFITS
On their website Gleeson say: "Owner occupiers shoulder responsibility for their homes & are stakeholders in society, which is why we refuse to sell our homes to private landlords. We are happy to see our customers profit from their purchase but we do not wish to put the profit into the pockets of private landlords."
The truth is that the houses that will be built on this field in Herstmonceux will be bought by private landlords for renting. This is what is happening in the village and outlying hamlets. Why? Because working families cannot afford to live in Herstmonceux, with own transport being a prerequisite and these days that means two cars per family. Families on low incomes will qualify for Housing Benefit and on that benefit landlords grow fat. It is only with Housing Benefits that these houses will be occupied - making the affordable housing situation worse.
Copyright photograph © June 28 2018, Herstmonceux Museum Limited. All rights reserved. You may not copy this picture except for educational use.
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WD/2015/0090/ HERSTMONCEUX VILLAGE CONDITIONS A - Z INDEX
ANGELES (LA) TIMES APRIL 2015
year, a final cleanup plan is moving toward approval. Last month, a
long-awaited, five-year study to determine how much contamination
PG&E may be responsible for finally got underway.
then, hundreds of residents have left. Property values dropped because
of the stigma surrounding the town, and PG&E launched a buyout
Starting in 2010, PG&E offered to either provide clean water or buy properties of residents whose wells tested positive for chromium.
said that when the program was announced, there was a high level of
anxiety in the community and many residents wanted to sell their
properties rather than take the water. The company, he said, wants to
see Hinkley thrive.
2010 and October 2014, when the program was formally discontinued,
PG&E purchased about 300 properties, he said.
despite the progress, many Hinkley residents still worry about how much
chromium 6 will remain in the water. PG&E is required to clean up to
the levels at which chromium 6 naturally occurs in the groundwater — a
number known as the background level.
levels of chromium 6 nearest to the compressor station — where no
residents remain — exceed that by large numbers, PG&E's testing in
domestic wells elsewhere in the community shows chromium 6 levels below
10 parts per billion, most often between 0 and 5, Sullivan said.
solicited help from John Izbicki, a U.S. Geological Survey research
hydrologist who has studied naturally occurring chromium 6 in the Mojave
Desert. With pressure from residents, PG&E acknowledged that its
earlier study was lacking. It is paying for a five-year study led by
Izbicki that is expected to conclusively determine the background level.
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