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By Graham Norwood

Editor, Estate Agent Today

Graham Awards


A Property Tale For Our Times - and it doesn't end well

If you want to hear of a tale for our industry’s times - featuring housing shortages, planning disputes, rampant  inflation and local authority inertia - look no further than Cornwall.

For that county has in recent days witnessed the absurd sight of completed new homes being boarded up, intentionally kept empty because of a stalemate involving the county council and a small local developer.

The council, you may recall from stories on the likes of Landlord Today, has been outspoken in its complaints about second home-owners, Airbnb hosts and buy to let investors.


These have apparently inadvertently conspired to keep rents and house values high - effectively pricing out locals. Cornwall Council has lobbied government for change, welcomed clampdowns on landlords and short lets, and in some parts of the county have banned second home purchases of new build properties.

Unable to deliver

And yet in the Cornish village of Calstock these new houses are boarded up with, to boot, the family-owned developer who built them at risk of bankruptcy thanks to the stalemate. And Cornwall Council appears to be partly (possibly wholly) to blame.

This is the core of the dispute.

The developer claims council delays, plan alterations and high building industry inflation have left it unable to deliver the full order of 33 homes in Calstock, including some affordable housing, at the original cost.

The new homes at Calstock’s Bridge View, and the cost of them to the council, were agreed and granted planning permission in 2018.

Since then, literally years of planning delays - combined with Covid, inflation, staff shortages and the unexpected need to build a £750,000 wall to satisfy later planning requirements - have led to a stand-off.


The developers submitted plans to amend their build in April 2023, but the planning department did not respond until January 2024, nine months later. The developers said that delay alone cost the firm £880,000.

In total, the developers say council delays have cost the firm £1.2m in interest over and above the original £2.8m cost of the scheme.

Additionally, the council has been accused of denying the developer the right to sell a number of completed properties midway through the overall build - something which would have eased cash flow for the company.

Much of this is ‘you said, I said’. No doubt there have been faults on both sides, although notably the council has not denied any of the accusations of delay and prevarication made by the developer.

Site was mothballed

The upshot is that funding for the scheme expired in October 2023 and this month the site was mothballed.

The council says it is “working with developers that have been granted planning permission to ensure that a housing development, and the agreed number of affordable housing homes, are delivered in line with the planning permission."

The developers, meanwhile, say the project - the biggest ever conducted by the family concern - has been “soul destroying.” Was the project too big for them? Presumably the council did its due diligence - and a nine-month wait for a view from a planner wouldn’t help even the largest developer.

And while all that was going on, the parish council in Calstock announced in January this year that there were 160 households on the waiting list in that parish alone.

I wonder what those 160 think when they look at the boarded-up homes.

Ho hum….

  • icon

    Progress Prevention Officers the lot of them!


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