Torbay Council to sell farmland for housing in £9m deal

Fields at Little Blagdon Farm, Collaton St Mary

Fields at Little Blagdon Farm, Collaton St Mary - Credit: Ed Oldfield

Torbay Council has agreed to sell more than 40 acres of farmland for housing in a deal worth more than £9million.

Councillors agreed to enter into an agreement with housing developer Taylor Wimpey for the land at Little Blagdon Farm, Collaton St Mary, near Paignton.

The price of £9,217,000 for the 18.42 hectares (45.5 acres) was revealed in a contract award notice.

The council has agreed a two-year deal for the sale which will only see full payment if the developer gets planning permission.

The farmland has been zoned for around 180 homes in the Collaton St Mary Masterplan agreed in 2016, which sets out sites for around 460 homes to be built around the village over four phases by 2030.

Villagers have opposed housing schemes which they say have been brought forward in a ‘piecemeal’ way ahead of a proposed new village centre and improvements to the sewerage and drainage system.

They fear the hundreds of new homes will increase the risk of flooding and there have been warnings that health services in Torbay are already over-stretched.

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Objectors argue that the extra traffic will cause pollution, congestion and hazards on the A385 Totnes Road, one of the main routes from the west into Torbay.

Roger and Pam Bristow in their garden at Collaton St Mary

Roger and Pam Bristow in their garden at Collaton St Mary - Credit: Ed Oldfield

Roger Bristow, chair of the Collaton St Mary Residents’ Association, said: “It is a total disgrace that Torbay Council is being allowed to give planning permission on a piece of land previously owned by them, and which they have sold for a profit.

“We are pretty devastated by the way it is moving. To my way of thinking, they are going to go ahead with it, no matter what is right or what is wrong. Money is the be all and end all.”

Planning decisions have to be made by local authorities within a legal framework of national and local policies and should not be influenced by other factors.

Torbay Council leader Steve Darling said the current administration of Liberal Democrats and Independents which took control of the council in 2019 had inherited the housing scheme.

He said any application would be judged on its merits by the planning committee in an independent process.

Cllr Darling said a deposit of £900,000 under the terms of the deal was available for the council to invest.

Options would be considered for funding including affordable housing in Paignton, work at Oldway Mansion, projects in Paignton town centre supporting the Future High Streets programme, and improving events infrastructure on Paignton and Torquay seafronts.

In 2018, Torbay Council was given around £2million of Government funding for the Little Blagdon Farm site and £1million for land off Preston Down Road, Paignton, from the Land Release Fund.

Derelict buildings at Little Blagdon Farm, Collaton St Mary

Derelict buildings at Little Blagdon Farm, Collaton St Mary - Credit: Ed Oldfield

The scheme is designed to fund work to bring forward surplus council-owned land for housing.

A deadline for the money to be committed was initially set at March 2020, but has since been extended. 

It has cost the council £2.4million to regain control of the two housing sites which were leased to Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust.

That outlay would be recovered from future capital receipts from the land deal.

The trust, which manages land on behalf of the council, received a settlement worth £2.25million.

The council initially looked for a development partner to take on both housing sites with detailed conditions to control the process, but the approach had to be abandoned due to lack of interest.

In October 2020, councillors decided to sell Little Blagdon Farm on the open market, and give the ten acres at Preston Down Road to its new social housing company TorVista to develop.

The Little Blagdon Farm developer has to offer three out of ten homes for ‘affordable housing’ with a mixture of social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership.

Documents giving details of the land sale said the buyer would have to pay a ten per cent deposit upfront, with the balance payable and the land transferred if they secured planning permission.

A briefing document said the developer would be able to use £850,000 of the Land Release Fund grant to pay for preparation work.

The council offered advance funding of a developer contribution of £394,000 for an anti-flooding scheme in the village, and would provide ten hectares (25 acres) of nearby land for ecology measures.

The council’s planning committee has given permission for a new access to the Little Blagdon Farm site off the A385, and for the demolition of farm buildings.

Outline permission has already been given for more than 200 homes in the village, part of a designated Future Growth Area.

In November 2020, the planning committee approved  39 homes at the former Torbay Holiday Motel.

A scheme for 73 homes from Taylor Wimpey was approved in August for the 'car boot' field near the village church, opposite Little Blagdon Farm.

In July, Bloor Homes was given permission for up to 100 homes on fields on the other side of the village school and church, with a new road junction.