By Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter
The three-storey building, with six homes, will replace a former council-owned garage block at St Andrews Estate after Mid Devon councillors gave the go-ahead.
Built in collaboration with Zed Pods Ltd, a producer of the modular homes, the council project includes an equal mix of one and two-bedroom flats. They are for social rent and will be allocated through the Devon Home Choice system through which people with housing needs bid for rental properties.
The modular units are factory-made before being transported to site. Zed Pods claims they are “built to higher standards than conventional houses” and are “super insulated,” with triple-glazing and solar panels.
St Andrews is the first half of the council’s plan to replace two of its former garage blocks with affordable housing. Another application has gone in for eight units at Shapland Place in Tiverton, with a decision expected soon.
Following approval for the Cullompton scheme, Tiverton & Honiton MP Neil Parish (Conservative) said it was “great news” and “these zero-carbon homes will provide much needed social housing in Devon, while helping us deliver our Net Zero ambitions.”
However, although permission was given at a meeting of the council’s planning committee, there were some concerns. A motion to defer was narrowly lost on the chairman’s casting vote, while some members remained unhappy with certain aspects of the application.
Councillor Graeme Barnell (Lib Dem, Newbrooke) claimed it isn’t compliant with parking policy and thought there should have been a site visit, while Councillor Barry Warren (Independent, Lower Culm) said he wanted to see more social housing, but not “to the detriment of our planning policies.”
Cllr Warren added: “I still feel that we have not had the sufficient information or opportunity to make a confident decision to put in a three-storey building where there are only bungalows or two-storey buildings.”
But Councillor Ron Dolley (Independent, Westexe) said the scheme should be supported for “the greater good,” adding there are people in the town living in “poor and substandard housing.”
Portfolio holder for housing, Councillor Bob Evans (Conservative, Lower Culm, previously praised Zed Pods after they were featured at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and said the plans represented the “much-needed first step in a new chapter of social housing delivery for the people of Mid Devon.”
He continued: “I personally hope this is the start of a journey that sees Mid Devon as an authority being seen as a deliverer of social and affordable housing in the UK and a leading council for not just a concept but for delivery,” he added.
Members decided to grant planning permission subject to semi-mature replacement trees are planted and additional parking is considered.