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L&G-backed developer Inspired Villages accused of ‘bombarding’ councillor

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A property developer linked to financial giants Legal & General and NatWest has come under fire in claims it was ‘relentlessly bombarding’ a local councillor and ignoring the views of residents in a bid to get planning applications heard.

Inspired Villages, a joint venture backed by Legal & General and NatWest Pension group fund, has recently been looking at several sites, including plans for 160 homes built in a small village on the edge of the Cotswolds and 133 flats on the edge of Sonning Common in the Chilterns. 

The developer says on its website that it is ‘reinventing retirement living with premium properties to purchase or rent, set in beautiful and secure environments, situated in some of the most sought-after locations in the UK’. 

But its approach to building on the site in the village of Freeland, in West Oxfordshire, has been questioned by local Councillor  Merilyn Davies, who described it as ‘pressurised’ and ‘boorish’.  

Areas such as the Cotswolds are desirable places to live, placing huge pressure on them for new homes to be built

Areas such as the Cotswolds are desirable places to live, placing huge pressure on them for new homes to be built

The developer insists its plans have been designed to address the growing shortage of specialist accommodation for older residents, while also delivering a range of new facilities that are all open to local residents.

While the developer said that it was too early to discuss prices for these sites, it said values on its other sites start at £230,000 for a one-bed flat. 

Ms Davies told MailOnline Property: ‘As district councillor on the planning committee, Legal & General’s Inspired Villages relentlessly bombarded me with highly pressurised emails to the extent I had to tell them to stop contacting me.

‘This treatment is the worst I have ever experienced from a developer.

‘These are developers who, even by developer standards, show absolute disregard for not only residents of the existing village but also for those of their proposed village.’

She added: ‘Villages comprise of built up areas in the centre which gradually peter out into the countryside. To build on these outlying areas destroys the village characteristic and risks urbanising a defining part of its identity.’

It follows recent speculation that the Cotswolds could be designated a National Park, which could affect future planning permissions.

The Government said recently that the Cotswolds was not currently being considered for a change in status – although a review of such areas is due to begin shortly.

Meanwhile, developers are ploughing ahead with proposals with more development in the surrounding area.

Councillor Merilyn Davies

Councillor Merilyn Davies

Cllr Davies explained that she has now ‘excused herself’ from any potential planning committee meetings concerning the application, as she ‘cannot remain impartial, as required’ and so that she can ‘campaign openly to stop’ the application in the village of Freeland.

Cllr Davies, of West Oxfordshire district council, is a ward member for Freeland and Hanborough as well as cabinet member for Housing and Communities.

She said: ‘L&G’s Inspired Villages appear to be conducting an attack on local plans and conducting themselves in a boorish manner so as to make their applications appear a given.

‘This ignores the democratic nature of local plans as well as ignoring the housing need identified within it.’

Freeland is already surrounded by development with 3,000 houses being built within a three-mile radius amid plans to double Oxfordshire’s housing by 2050.

Residents believe that the planning application could prove to be a test case as the site is so unsuitable.

Cllr Davies added: ‘Its proposals would see elderly people ghettoised on the edge of a village which already has an older demographic as well as no bus route, no street lighting, and no shop.

Inspired Villages is hoping to get 160 homes built in a small village on the edge of the Cotswolds called Freeland (plans pictured)

Inspired Villages is hoping to get 160 homes built in a small village on the edge of the Cotswolds called Freeland (plans pictured)

Meanwhile, a different councillor resigned amid other plans by Inspired Villages to develop another site in the county, in south Oxfordshire.

Tom Fort was a member of the Sonning Common parish council in south Oxfordshire until the beginning of July.

Tom Fort was a member of the Sonning Common parish council in south Oxfordshire until the beginning of July

Tom Fort was a member of the Sonning Common parish council in south Oxfordshire until the beginning of July

He says that he resigned partially in protest at the decision to allow an appeal by Inspired Villages for a 133 apartment retirement village to be built on part of the Chilterns, on the edge of Sonning Common.

Mr Fort says that a public meeting at the village hall was attended by around 100 local residents who opposed the plans.

He said: ‘Despite being under the umbrella of Legal & General, Inspired Villages is essentially a speculative land development company.

‘It has no interest in the views of local people, or in the Local Plan produced by South Oxfordshire District Council or in the preservation of the highly vulnerable countryside of south Oxfordshire.

‘Their argument is that there is an acute need for assisted living and extra care accommodation which the district council has failed to provide for, and that this highly debatable shortage should enable them to trample on planning policies that have taken years to produce.

‘In doing so they display an unbounded contempt for local democracy and are prepared to go to extreme lengths to exploit the planning inquiry system to their advantage.’

Inspired Villages hopes to build a 133 apartment retirement village in the Chilterns, on the edge of Sonning Common (pictured)

Inspired Villages hopes to build a 133 apartment retirement village in the Chilterns, on the edge of Sonning Common (pictured)

Response from Inspired Villages 

We contacted the developer about the claims and a spokesperson from Inspired Villages said: ‘As a long term developer and operator, we are dedicated to bringing forward schemes which not only address the chronic shortage of housing for older people across the UK, but which are designed and built to respond to local community needs.

‘Our proposals at Freeland have been designed to address the growing shortage of specialist accommodation for older residents in West Oxfordshire, whilst also delivering a range of new facilities including a village club house and shop, wellness centre and transport to surrounding retail and leisure outlets – all open to the local community.

‘As part of our commitment, we are dedicated to enhancing the surrounding ecology for local residents and the scheme at Freeland will achieve a biodiversity net gain, aiming to be carbon net zero to minimise environmental impact.

‘To ensure our proposals best respond to local needs, we have met with local politicians and Parish Councillors to gain feedback and began engaging with Planning Officers at West Oxfordshire District Council in December 2018, making representations to both the Local Plan and Salt Cross Area Action Plan. 

‘We have also undertaken extensive engagement with local residents over the past year to ensure local priorities are reflected in our design.’

They added: ‘Unlike short term developers, whose businesses might be based around ‘buying and flipping’ sites, at Inspired Villages we deliver more than just bricks and mortar. 

‘Our long term developer and operator model, backed by patient pension capital, means that we are long term members of the community. Our business is built around enabling residents to enjoy a mentally, physically and socially active lifestyle thanks to the vibrant communities we create, and ensuring that our villages are integrated into and open to the local community. As such it is our top priority that we actively engage with local stakeholders to ensure our schemes match the enduring local needs and thrive.

‘As with all our developments, our plans in Sonning Common have been designed to address the growing shortage of specialist accommodation for older residents in the Oxfordshire area, which we have identified through extensive research. 

‘Comprehensive engagement included letters to local residents, Parish Councillors and local ward members; a 2-day public consultation and a 10 day public inquiry. Following this, the Secretary-of-State-appointed Planning Inspector was in full agreement that the scheme would address the lack of housing land supply, as well as fulfil the critical need for extra care housing within the district. 

‘It was concluded that this would then, in turn, free up homes for local families and provide health and wellbeing benefits to older people, taking the burden off local health and social care systems. To ensure we are bringing forward schemes which deliver added benefits to local communities, our scheme in Sonning will include a restaurant, café, hairdressers and wellness centre with gym and swimming pool – all open for local residents to enjoy.

‘As a business, we also take environmental issues very seriously and are working to achieve net zero carbon on all our sites by 2030. In Sonning Common, our scheme will plant hundreds of new trees to provide attractive landscaping and improve the ecology benefits to both residents and the wider community.’

It added that while it wouldn’t be able to give exact pricing breakdowns at this early stage in the planning and development process for these sites, it could refer to Inspired Villages’ wider model

The spokesman explained: ‘At Inspired Villages, we aim to give our customers a wide range of choice to suit their individual needs and situation, offering both rental and ownership options across a variety of formats. Our houses start from £230,000 and include 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments and cottages, all carefully designed for the needs of older people and focused on promoting an active lifestyle.

‘Helping our customers to rightsize, this model also frees up many under-occupied former family homes, in turn allowing younger families to move in, which contributes to creating vibrant sustainable communities.’

 

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Amanda Holden puts her five bedroom Surrey home on the market for £5million

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Amanda Holden has put her Surrey mansion on the market for £5million after giving the luxurious property a showbiz makeover.

The Britain’s Got Talent judge, 51, is hoping to make a £1.5million profit having splashed out £3.5m on the five-bedroom home seven years ago.

The detached home boasts its own bar, huge 30ft by 27ft living room, stylish kitchen diner and a hot tub, where Amanda has posed for several bikini pictures she’s posted on her Instagram page.

Amanda Holden (pictured) has put one of her family homes on the market seven years after she bought it for £3.5million 

The star often posts pictures on Instagram of her beautiful home, which she has been given a fabulous renovation by the star

The star often posts pictures on Instagram of her beautiful home, which she has been given a fabulous renovation by the star

The huge open-plan living room also displays eye-catching artwork, including a giant painting of a female astronaut and a £30,000 drawing by the Connor Brothers of a sultry woman in a silver dress smoking a cigarette

 The huge open-plan living room also displays eye-catching artwork, including a giant painting of a female astronaut and a £30,000 drawing by the Connor Brothers of a sultry woman in a silver dress smoking a cigarette

A source said: ‘Amanda loves her family home and is really proud of the work she’s done on it.

‘She’s had a real hand in the makeover and has enjoyed seeing her ideas come to life.

‘It will be a sad day when she moves out but Amanda can take comfort in the number of memories she’s created there.’

Amanda lives in the property with record producer husband Chris Hughes and their two daughters Lexi, 16, and Hollie, 10. 

After buying the home in 2015, herself and Chris described the mansion as their ‘forever home’ and Amanda admitted ‘badgering’ its former owner to sell it to them for years until they finally relented.

The couple also own a holiday home in the Cotswolds, which they have been renovating over the past year.

Heart FM DJ Amanda has spoken of her love of interior design

Heart FM DJ Amanda has spoken of her love of interior design

Amanda recently added a glamorous outhouse to the Surrey property where another bar and the hot tub are located, set upon a large wooden decking area, close to a palm tree she planted in honour of Sir Captain Tom Moore.

The garden room also includes a log burner and comfy sofas, which Amanda says are perfect for a ‘sneaky afternoon disco nap.’

The Heart FM DJ renovated her bespoke Wilson Fink kitchen during lockdown, adding new cupboards and worktops, plus mirrored tiles on the walls.

She also has three disco ball-style lights, worth £850 each, hanging over her breakfast bar.

And her quirky taste is exemplified by pineapple-themed accessories dotted around the property, including dark navy and pineapple-print wallpaper and a £125 Graham and Green pineapple lamp.

The huge open-plan living room also displays eye-catching artwork, including a giant painting of a female astronaut and a £30,000 drawing by the Connor Brothers of a sultry woman in a silver dress smoking a cigarette under the caption ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say come sit next to me.’

The mansion, which includes five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a study, is located behind two sets of private gates which lead onto a private road towards the house.

The driveway is big enough to hold several cars, which is convenient when Amanda hosts her showbiz parties.

Speaking about her home to House Beautiful, Amanda revealed it was important their Surrey property didn’t feel like ‘a show home’

She said: ‘We have two little girls and don’t want them feeling that they’re treading on eggshells.’

Amanda’s passion for interior design has led to her landing a new TV show with pal Alan Carr in which the pair be doing up a property in Italy.

The series will air on the BBC after she pitched the idea to the broadcaster.

Amanda admits herself and husband Chris have so many clothes, they turned a room into a walk-in wardrobe – inspired by her favourite TV show.

She says: ‘I’m a huge Sex And The City fan and Chris did a Mr Big and turned a whole room into my wardrobe.

‘Except, he didn’t leave a pair of Manolos at the end… but he arranged everything else. It’s something I’ve always dreamt of.

‘There’s a remote-controlled mirror that goes up and down and lights up – it’s amazing.’

The star has taken to Instagram and posted photos of her on dreamy summer evenings relaxing her garden which includes a hot tub set upon a large wooden decking area, close to a palm tree she planted in honour of Sir Captain Tom Moore

The star has taken to Instagram and posted photos of her on dreamy summer evenings relaxing her garden which includes a hot tub set upon a large wooden decking area, close to a palm tree she planted in honour of Sir Captain Tom Moore

Speaking about her efforts to lovingly renovate her home, house proud Amanda explained: 'I am house proud, but I've got two kids, two dogs and a cat, so it's a family house. Everything is washable and wipeable.'

Speaking about her efforts to lovingly renovate her home, house proud Amanda explained: ‘I am house proud, but I’ve got two kids, two dogs and a cat, so it’s a family house. Everything is washable and wipeable.’

The buyer lucky enough to be able to afford Amanda's sprawling home will be able to relax in this stunning stand alone bath

The buyer lucky enough to be able to afford Amanda’s sprawling home will be able to relax in this stunning stand alone bath

The en-suite bathroom is just off the master bedroom where Amanda has frequently posted enviable pictures on her socials

The en-suite bathroom is just off the master bedroom where Amanda has frequently posted enviable pictures on her socials

And the TV favourite also concedes she’s a clean freak, meaning every service on the ground floor can be wiped fresh.

Speaking to The Mirror, she explained: ‘I am house proud, but I’ve got two kids, two dogs and a cat, so it’s a family house. Everything is washable and wipeable.

‘It’s so open plan my littlest can cycle her bike around. ‘I don’t have carpets on the ground floor – and this is disgusting – but I was doing an interview a while ago and my puppy pooed on the floor during the chat.

‘But you don’t worry if you have wooden floors. Two words: wipe clean.’

Amanda, who designed a homeware range for shopping network QVC, is so into interior design she believes it could eventually become a day job – if she ever loses her looks.

She added: ‘I want this to be a legacy. When my face falls off and all the telly work dries up, this is actually where I want to be.’ 

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Russian TV host refuses to apologise for report on mock nuclear attack on Ireland

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The Russian state television host who broadcast a graphic of a simulated nuclear attack destroying Ireland has rejected a request from Taoiseach Micheál Martin to apologise for the programme.

In a follow-up report broadcast on state-owned television channel Russia-1 on Sunday night, television host Dmitry Kiselyov refused to apologise for the animated graphic broadcast earlier this month showing a nuclear strike off the Irish coast erasing Ireland and Britain from the map.

On Sunday’s programme, Kiselyov, a Kremlin supporter and state propagandist, described Ireland as “collateral damage” in a potential nuclear attack by Russia on the UK in any escalation of tensions between the countries over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

While distinguishing between Ireland, a neutral country, and the UK, Kiselyov repeated the assertion in the original report that “the whole British archipelago was basically a sinkable island” and that Russia has “every capability for such a nuclear retaliation”.

Referring to Irish political and public reaction to the original report broadcast at the start of this month, the Russian TV host said: “Ireland literally flew into a rage. Of course as a neutral country, it wasn’t nice for Ireland to become collateral damage in Britain’s clash with Russia.”

The news report, according to a translation tweeted by the BBC digital journalist Francis Scarr who monitors Russian state television, quoted the Taoiseach describing the Russian media report as “very sinister, intimidatory tactics by the Russian Federation”.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be intimidated by it. I think it reflects a mindset that is worrying and not in touch with reality. I think there should be an apology forthcoming,” the Taoiseach was quoted as saying on the Russian programme against a photograph of Mr Martin.

Kiselyov said he completely agreed that an apology should be forthcoming but that it should come from British prime minister Boris Johnson, falsely claiming that the UK leader had made a “groundless threat to strike Russia” that had led to the original report and simulated attack.

“But we’re not intimidating anyone. Talking about capabilities has an anti-war modality. As they say, let’s not start. It will end badly. It’s better to live in peace,” said Kiselyov.

Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South Billy Kelleher said the Russian state-owned station still owed an apology to the Taoiseach and the Irish people over the report and mock attack.

He described the Russia presenter as “a mouthpiece” for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and that “anything said by him were effectively the official views from the Kremlin”.

“It shows how delusional their foreign policy is. It shows how removed they are from understanding what neutral countries are,” he said.

“It is indicative of Russia’s view of the world and how they believe they can obliterate a nation if they feel that is necessary to protect themselves even if there is no threat coming from Ireland.”

The reports on the Russian national broadcaster were “outrageous”, “completely unacceptable” and “indicative of the delusional state of the entire Putin regime,” he said.

“We simply cannot have what are official media outlets relaying huge threats to wipe Ireland off the face of the earth, a neutral country that has never once threatened Russia,” he said.

Labour Party foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Howlin TD described the host’s comments as “both delusional and menacing on a number of fronts”, including how the television station was conflating Ireland and Britain.

“Ireland is a neutral country but as the people of Ireland have very ably demonstrated in the last two months, we are not neutral in relation to the illegal and immoral assault on the people of Ukraine by Putin,” he said.

“We will not be intimidated by grandiose, farcical threats emanating from Russia. This is not a comic book; this is a painful reality for millions of Ukrainians.”



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Sirius Real Estate sells London business park for €18.8m (GB)

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Sirius Real Estate has agreed to the sale of an asset in Camberwell, London, for €18.8m (£16m), representing a NIY of circa 2%. The property formed part of the portfolio Sirius acquired in November 2021 with its purchase of BizSpace, the leading provider of regional light industrial, workshop, studio and out of town office units across the UK. The sale price represents a 94% premium to the valuation at the time of Sirius’ acquisition of BizSpace.

 

The multi-tenanted business park, which comprises approximately 34,700ft² of industrial and office space is 91% occupied following a series of asset management measures delivered through the BizSpace platform. The sale is expected to complete in July 2022.

 

Commenting on the transaction, Andrew Coombs, Chief Executive Officer of Sirius Real Estate, said: “This disposal is further proof of the latent value in the BizSpace portfolio we acquired late last year, the price being significantly ahead of last September’s valuation on which our purchase was based, and the attractive sale follows our recent announcement that we had since improved like-for-like rental income across the portfolio by 7.5%. The sale will allow us to invest in new opportunities for BizSpace in the UK as we continue to build our acquisition pipeline. Bringing together the Sirius and BizSpace platforms, with a strengthened management team at BizSpace, is already delivering strong results and operational synergies that will enhance our UK portfolio.”

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