Decision over Pinhoe plan for 40 zero-carbon ‘smart homes’ delayed due to concern over the number of affordable dwellings

A decision on the fate of plans to build 40 zero-carbon ‘smart homes’ in Pinhoe, Exeter, has been delayed because of concerns over lack of ‘affordable’ dwellings.

Verto Homes has put forward the scheme for land between Pulling Lane and Church Hill, which Exeter City Council planning officers had recommended for approval.

However, planning committee members expressed worries over adding more homes and cars into the area’s fragile infrastructure.

They deferred deciding on the blueprints only 15 per cent of the homes are affordable – when the authority’s policies demand 35 per cent.

“It is no good saying we are getting zero-carbon homes for the masses if the masses can’t afford them,” said Cllr Greg Sheldon.

In red, a rough outline of the proposed development site. Image: Google Maps

In red, a rough outline of the proposed development site. Image: Google Maps

Proposals are for a mix of apartments, a terrace of three homes, 16 semi-detached properties and 19 detached dwellings.

Tom Carr, co-founder of Verto Homes, told the committee’s February meeting that his company is striving to make radical changes in the area in which it operates.

He added: “We aim to build homes in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.

“The zero-carbon smart homes do not emit any CO2 in the atmosphere and, if Exeter is to lead the way and be carbon neutral, then supporting a zero-carbon development is essential.”

Questions were, however, raised over why there were 82 car parking spaces for 40 homes.

Councillor David Harvey said, with a bus service at the bottom of the road and a new bi-directional cycle route, the green credentials of the site meant it is ripe for a car-free development.

Cllr Keith Sparkes also asked for two electric charging points per house, rather than the one proposed for each dwelling.

In response, Mr Carr said that making the site car-free would hinder sales, adding: “When spending money on a property, people want to be able to store a car.

“As much as we want to push towards zero carbon, we cannot dictate how people live their lives.

“We would welcome the chance to reduce parking spaces if it helps the development proceed and we can put two electric charging points in each house if it helps.

“Any ideas to make it zero carbon, we will welcome.”

An artist's impression of the zero-carbon homes proposed for Pinhoe in Exeter.

An artist’s impression of the zero-carbon homes proposed for Pinhoe in Exeter.

Cllr Phil Bialyk praised the move towards the zero-carbon homes.

However, he said the council does not yet have a policy to say that, if a developer wants to bring forward such environmentally-friendly dwellings, it can reduce the number of affordable properties.

“I feel uncomfortable with that deal,” he added.

Cllr Emma Morse said: “I kind of like this application, but I have concerns about the affordable housing level as it less than half of the level we require.”

She proposed that the council deferred the application to allow for further conversations around viability and the level of affordable dwellings.

Councillors voted by 10 votes to two, to delay their decision over the Pinhoe scheme.

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