Sladnor Park is comprised of roughly sixty-one acres of land with undisturbed views of the bay and currently houses a couple of chalet bungalows. It was a prosperous holiday complex with a tennis court, bar, restaurant, ballroom and even a swimming pool until 1988. When it closed, the land housed eight pairs of holiday lodges and thirty-two chalets however the main house, photographed, had to be demolished after a fire in 1994.
Since then, there have been various planning applications submitted for an assortment of development ideas including a golf course, a holiday resort and there were even plans to alter the natural water courses and form fishing lakes. These applications were considered to have a significant, negative impact on the site’s green spaces and natural habitats, and in 1996 the applications were withdrawn. The site is currently dormant and the majority of the buildings have been demolished in the intervening twenty years. Three differing applications have been submitted and approved in that time but nothing has materialised.
Sans interference, mother nature has been able to retake the site and it has become a haven for wildlife and is home to a colony of Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, badgers, foxes, many birds including kestrels and slow-worms. Sladnor is located in a unique and highly environmentally sensitive area, it is rich in historic character and the home of numerous rare and protected wildlife species. In recognition for its significance internationally, nationally and locally, it has been designated as part of a UNESCO Global Geopark - one of only 120 in the world. Maidencombe is one of only two rural villages in Torquay and has been identified by Torbay Council for special protection.
English Villages wants to build six tower blocks on the site with some being eight storeys high in addition to ancillary buildings to house 300 people over the age of 55.
The developers also plan to remove 300 trees including those with Tree Preservation Orders and so there will be an unprecedented risk of landslips and flooding. Considering all Maidencombe homes are in Flood Zone 3 the damage would be similar to Boscastle in 2004 and Coverack in 2017.
English Villages claim: 438,000 people reside within a 40 minutes’ drive of the site and 89,000 of these (roughly 20%) are over the age of 65.
This statement significantly exceeds the population of Torbay which is 130,000. They are clearly considering a much wider catchment area for the development which probably includes the city of Exeter – thus not relevant to Torbay. The Torbay Local Plan indicates that 45% of the population are currently over the age of 55 with 15% over age 75.
English Villages claim: 466 Enhanced Sheltered & Extra Care housing units are in Torbay and there will have to be 654 additional units by 2030. 75% of over 65s in Torbay fall into mid to high end of the wealth spectrum. 75% of the current supply of housing with care is aimed at the affordable sector.
45% of Torbay’s population are aged 55 plus - substantially higher than the UK average.
Less than 10% of properties in the area are valued at £1,000,000 plus as the average price in the region is £225,000 meaning that the Care Village property owners will have to be drawn from outside Torbay.
The greatest need for care & residential homes in Torbay is at the lower end of the financial spectrum. Torbay has the highest percentage of care & residential homes in proportion to its population in the UK.
Currently in Torbay, residential care homes are closing due to financial pressures and staff shortages, leaving the properties to be converted into general residential units. In addition, middle to high end retirement apartments, such as Lincombe Manor, are remaining difficult to sell. This suggests that the proposed development does not align with the local demand.
English Villages claim: Once built, retirement villages have significant positive effects upon the local economy in a number of important ways including the provision of one-off investment in the area.
This is an investment by the developer and ‘for the developer’. The site was purchased for £2,000,000 and, given the proposal to sell the retirement properties between £250,000 to £950,000, this would net English Villages approximately £73,000,000 of profit. There is no apparent benefit to Torbay or the local community.
BBC Radio 4’s Money Box (20th September 2017) reported on the investigations undertaken by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel and stated: "Around half of new build retirement homes sold during a 10-year period were later re-sold at a loss". The purchase of a Care Village property should therefore not be considered a sound capital investment.
Over 60% of care residents in Torbay are now supported financially by Torbay Council. Given the national trend since 2010 of income declining relative to living costs, this percentage is expected to increase and thus placing further financial burden on Torbay Council Taxpayers.
English Villages claim: The development will provide new, direct jobs and supporting jobs among local service providers such as cleaners, groundsmen and those maintaining the property.
Whilst new jobs may be created, there is a significant lack of trained and qualified care staff in Torbay. For example, closure of Paignton Hospital was partly due to unavailability of trained staff. The introduction of this new facility will put yet further strain on existing care providers.
English Villages claim: Residents of retirement villages support the local economy directly through the use of shops, services, food establishments and transport providers.
300 plus additional residents will not make an appreciable difference to the local economy as the site is remote (more than 2 miles) from any economic centres. There will be on-site facilities to handle many of the day to day needs such as a restaurant which will be centrally sourced by English Villages and profits will, once again, benefit them.
English Villages claim: They support the provision of local services through their contributions to Council Tax.
An additional 300 plus residents could increase costs for Torbay Council through the need for subsidies. As noted above, over 60% of Torbay residents are supported by the Local Authority in retirement.
English Villages claim: Research has established that a typical 150 unit retirement village will contribute:
· Approximately 105 new full- and part-time jobs (72 full-time equivalents)
· £15 million in initial investment in capital asset
· Approximately 187 jobs during the construction phase
Once again, these jobs will take staff from existing care providers in the Bay, resulting in an increased shortfall of staff in our established facilities.
This capital asset is owned by English Villages and therefore has NO benefit to the economy of Torbay.
It is unlikely that these jobs will be undertaken by local personnel. In the case of the trees and scrub clearance on the site, contractors were brought in from outside the area demonstrating that English Villages are far more likely to use their own contractors.
English Villages claim: £1.7 million in on-going salary to local workers.
This underlines the previous arguments where potentially higher wages will attract staff from other healthcare providers and businesses.
English Villages claim: At least £160,000 per annum in additional business to local suppliers.
Central purchasing is likely to preclude much of this.
English Villages claim: Around £1,300,000 of expenditure in the local economy from residents (including multiplier effect).
As noted previously, much of the day to day expenditure will be on site.
English Villages claim: Between £152,000-£190,000 will be paid in additional Council Tax to support the local service provision.
As previously stated, the cost of providing NHS services will fall on the local health authority. The quality of local hospitals, GP and Social Service care services will be impacted and their costs will increase as they endeavour to recruit and train new staff. Moreover, 45% of those aged 80 plus are in receipt of subsidies for ground rent and management charges as well as care costs. The introduction of an additional 300 pluz retirees will perpetuate the existing demographic imbalance in Torbay.
English Villages claim: In addition to producing a range of economic benefits their research has established that retirement villages do frequently offer a number of benefits for society, both those members of society living within the village as well as those outside. According to them, retirement villages help to reduce isolation, improve feelings of well-being, help to create a community capacity and provide access to a range of services that would not otherwise be available, especially in rural and semi-rural communities.
This is an isolated site with no pavements outside the site and an extremely steep gradient into the village; disqualifying most elderly residents from walking to the centre of Maidencombe and precluding some non-residents from walking to the site. There is a very limited bus service and no shopping nor social facilities in the immediate vicinity.
English Villages claim: The development will reducing access problems for those with disabilities.
This is not specific to care homes.
English Villages claim: It will help to reduce feelings of social isolation.
As noted above, this is an isolated site.
English Villages claim: Will make older people feel more secure.
The site may have a secured main entrance however the boundaries of the site, given its isolated location, are completely open and offer no security whatsoever.
English Villages claim: Reducing average GP visits and reducing the overall financial burden on the NHS by almost £21,000 per annum.
Research has shown that such facilities place increased and unsustainable demand on GPs as well as dentists, pharmacies, and hospitals. Torbay Hospital is already struggling with the high volume of elderly Bay residents. Our local health providers are very concerned and have stated the development of Sladnor Park will result in the likely closure of surgeries and longer waiting lists.
English Villages claim: Improving perceiving (sic) levels of health among residents by:
· Providing an average of 12,612 hours of volunteer time per annum with a value to society of at least £90,810.
· Providing local, non-residents with access to a range of services which are not available in the locality such as swimming pools, gyms, meeting rooms and restaurants.
· Improving the levels of happiness for around two-thirds of residents with significant associated benefits for health, happiness and reduced service demands on social care and other state-provided support facilities.
· It is not clear who these volunteers are and what roles they will fulfil. This is an isolated site with poor volunteer access compared to a town location. Volunteers are already in short supply and are a financial gain for the care company NOT the community or council.
· There will be a cost to use these leisure facilities whilst restaurants already exist in the area.
· Their final claim conflicts with the Government position which is to encourage people to remain in their own homes rather than in a retirement village.
English Villages claim: The final pillar of sustainability relates to the environment and, in this area, research has identified a number of important and significant ways in which retirement villages have a positive impact. These frequently revolve around the re-allocation of previously under occupied property, the reduction in journeys and single-person car travel, an improvement in energy-efficiency and the provision of local employment opportunities that reduce the need for significant journeys.
Although there may be situations where retirement villages could have a positive environmental impact, this is definitely not the case for Sladnor Park. There will be significant ecological damage to this rural site and its protected wildlife species from this construction.
English Villages claim: They will release 75 large family houses and 38 other types of family-sized accommodation (3 or 4 bedrooms).
This is unlikely to apply in Torbay. With the cost of these apartment ranging from £250,000 to £995,000 they will be beyond the means of many Torbay residents, where the average house price is £225,000. These prices will bring additional retirees into Torbay and swell the already out of balance demographic. Government figures show Torbay has one of the highest number of retirees in the entire UK.
English Villages claim: It will stimulate regeneration and refurbishment of previously under-occupied housing.
Sladnor Park is a GREENFIELD site and there are NO existing buildings to regenerate. In terms of releasing property in Torbay – see above
English Villages claim: Reducing the demand for many short car journeys through the provision of on-site facilities such as shops, hairdressers and restaurants.
Our poor bus service and a limited minibus service will not encourage people to give up their cars as they will be needed for trips further afield to Exeter, Dartmoor or to visit remote family. Not only will many residents have 2 cars but staff cars will also vastly increase traffic volumes and pollution.
English Villages claim: Can help to reduce energy consumption through the use of modern materials and construction techniques thus lowering utility bills and associated greenhouse gas production.
The provision of 205 units will INCREASE energy consumption as, currently, there is low usage of electricity, gas, water and sewage disposal on the site.
English Villages claim: Providing a number of new employment opportunities in local (often rural) communities is a positive alternative to travelling large distances to access job opportunities in nearby conurbations. In Bishopstoke Park, 75% of staff live within a five-mile radius of the site.
The rural situation of Sladnor Park will require greater travel to bring in sufficient staff, thus increasing road congestion, pollution and carbon footprint. Let alone the impact on established businesses. Bishopstoke Park, in Hampshire, has no bearing on Torbay where the circumstances are different.
In addition, no mention has been made by English Villages on the destruction of the quintessential environmental balance of Sladnor Park which has already begun with the removal of trees, damage to bat flightpaths, elimination of ancient hedgerows and the heavy machinery used to excavate land beside badger setts.
Once the precedent is set, the other planning applications, which are in the wings, including a housing estate on the conservation area between the junction of Rockhouse Lane, Brim Hill and Steep Hill (behind Courthouse & Maidencombe Farm), will likely get permission. There are also plans for several houses on the field at the top of Steep Hill & Brim Hill.
IF THE PLANNING APPLICATION IS PASSED BY TORBAY COUNCIL, WE HAVE NO OPPORTUNITY TO APPEAL. IF, HOWEVER, WE WERE TO WIN, THE PLANNER HAS THE RIGHT TO APPEAL.
The Neighbourhood Plan (which the MRA committee worked very hard to bring to completion) was finally approved by Torbay Council. This plan will, once adopted, give greater protection to the areas that we treasure and give the informed views of Maidencombe residents regarding where development can take place. This plan will go out to referendum at the same time as local council elections in May 2019.
If you would like to read the Neighbourhood Plan, please CLICK HERE.
You can find more information on the Torquay Council website and the Planning Application Number is P/2018/1053.
Help Us Fight This For Our Children and Grandchildren.
SAVE SLADNOR PARK!
Useful references Links to BBC Moneybox programmes: BBC Radio4 Money Box 9th Sept: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09309h5 BBC Radio4 Money Box 16th Sept: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b093hv5w BBC Radio4 Money Box 20th Sept: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b093hwd2 BBC Radio4 Money Box 8 th Oct: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b097794z
Better Retirement Housing : https://www.betterretirementhousing.com/