Health and Community Services
More houses - few facilities

Speculation?  Rumour?  Misinformation? - Timeline 1
Project set-up

These words appear yet again in the village magazine in relation to the Willand Health and Community Centre.  It is now time to put an end to speculation, rumour and lies (the northern version of misinformation) so that whoever is doing it can be provided with all the facts. 

The timeline covers the period October 2013 when the offer was received purchase the site up to the point of starting work on the lease between the Parish Council and the Willand health and Community Centre in May 2015. This seems a long time but during that period the following activities were completed. 

  •  S106 agreement with the Developer and MDDC to make the funds available
  • signing a deed of covenant with Devon County Council
  • Conveyance of the land from the developer to the Parish Council
  • Design of the Health and Community Centre by architects
  • Submission of a successful planning application
  • Successful application to set up a Charity
  • development of lease heads of agreement

We now look at each of these activities to establish the intent of the Parish Council.  Extracts from documents are in blue and indented.  My comments related to the extracts are in green.  Statements to particularly note are in Red

Parish Council activities leading up to the Offer (2010 to 2013)

  • Request for donation of the site from Devon County Council – refused
  • Offer to purchase the site for £40,000 from Devon County Council – refused
  • Discussions with MDDC Planning with Cllr Richard Chesterton and Jonathan Guscott supporting resulted in an offer to the Parish Council to purchase the site for £80,000 less the S106 obligations from the developer, Westhaven Homes.
  • An offer from our County Councillor Ray Radford of an "invest in Devon” grant for £15,000 ensured that no funds from the Parish Council were used for the purchase or preparation and costs for a Planning Application.

The estimated purchase price of the land and buildings was set at £80,000.  The developer obligations under Section 106 of planning regulation for such things a open space, affordable housing were allowed under the S106 agreement to offset the costs of the site resulting in an offer which would cost the Parish Council just over £5,000.  However as part of the Discussions, Our County Councillor offered a grant of £15,000 to cover the cost of the purchase and the work required to get us to planning consent.  It can be seen therefore that the overall package did not cost the Parish Council anything.

The offer to purchase the site 2nd October 2013

The offer came in the form of an email from Thea Billiter, the planning officer as follows:

Dear Ray

Jonathan and Simon Johnson (our Solicitor) have had a meeting with Simon Green to discuss the S106 agreement for The Gables. It has been agreed that the stables land will be transferred to the Parish Council for £80,000.00 - £35,014 (Air Quality and POS) and £39,765.32 (Education). This means that the Parish will need to pay £5220.68 for the stables land.

In order to give the developer some security in the sale of the houses it has been agreed that the S106 will contain a clause that requires the Parish Council to submit a planning application for the works to the stables land within 6 months of the date of the S106 being finalised and still with the clause that if the land is not used for community facilities within 5 years then the land will be transferred to MDDC for use as affordable housing.

As you are aware the Parish Council need to be a signatory to the S106; as you are a public body you need to have legal representation for this process but this cannot be by MDDC’s own solicitors as they are representing MDDC in this process. Could you please therefore advise me who you will be using for this purpose.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

The site purchase 24th April 2014

Funded from a £15,000 grant from "Investing in Devon” .  There have been many references to the "modest investment" that the Parish Council made in purchasing this site.  This is misleading as the whole package was self funding.  Devon County Council went out of their way to make sure that the payment would be in the Parish Council Bank before the conveyance was finalised, thus reducing any cash flow issues.

Reaction to the purchase

Generally delight, enthusiasm and gratitude to those who made it happen.  There was however one cold shower in the form of an document to all Councillors from Cllr Warren. asking a number of questions which I felt the need to answer.  It should be noted that the author was deeply involved in all the discussions and knew the answers to the questions. The document is below


The Parish has an excellent opportunity to acquire a property to enable us to provide a Community facility in the centre of the village. Such a facility has been sought after on a number of occasions since about 1970.  The failure to achieve this has been for many reasons and sites have been built over for housing.

We are now close to signing up to acquire the site which will then commit the Parish to a long term requirement to run and fund the eventual facility.

The facility will be run as a not for profit charity organisation, relying on donations from different funders together with charges for services to provide income.  It has never been assumed that the Parish Council will fully fund the centre but we have discussed and over the past two years allocated funds from the precept for community services.

I have some questions which come to mind and I share them with you in order that if anyone has answers they can be shared with us or alternatively some of the points may be considered by some as of no concern and it would help if the reasons for that view could be shared. Do we go ahead with the acquisition when there could be a number of unknowns which may have an effect on future viability?

What 'strings' are attached to the purchase? What are the conditions and where can they be seen in writing [other than the email of 3 October 2013]? What happens if we ‘default’? Will we be refunded the £5,000+ pounds?  Is an email from a mid-ranking officer considered a suitable commitment to have legal standing if challenged?

(RU) There are 2 conditions attached to the acquisition which have already been circulated. They are
1) That we submit a planning application within 6 months
2) That we deliver community services from the site within 5 years
These will be embodied in the S106 agreement which will be scrutinised by our solicitor to ensure that we are adequately protected.  The email from the mid-ranking officer was clearly just a communication to notify us of the agreement and advise us to commence the legal process.  The email will be superseded by a legal agreement and therefore will not need to have any legal standing

Do we feel we have the support of the Parish to undertake this project and commit them to the potential cost for years to come?  There have been three 'surveys' to date in two formats.  Will those surveys stand up to scrutiny if challenged? 

(RU) This subject has been raised on a number of occasions and we had a review of this issue and agreed that we had carried out a more than adequate consultation with the village.  It is minuted in one of our meetings (sorry I don’t have the time to find the specific) and we agreed that this subject would not be raised again

It is planned to consult with various groups within the Parish after we have 'signed up'.  [I set out a process for this in February 2013 as one of my tasks and raised it again in July 2013] We have seen a view put forward by a member of the Youth Club Management which could be argued to question the need for some of what we propose for the site.  Should we be sure we have support from the majority of various groups within the Parish before we commit to the acquisition?

(RU) The Youth Club management are being totally supportive with what we are doing and simply offering the use of their premises for trialling new services where possible.  I have also presented the concept to the Village Hall Committee with a favourable response.  I will be meeting them again in January to discuss the issue of parking.  At this stage, whist we do not have any facilities, it is my view as project manager that we do not need to carry out any further consultation until we have something to talk about. Getting the support of, for example, the Short Mat Bowling Club, would not be relevant to what we are trying to do.

We have documented the various costs for acquisition of the site and some of the potential funding in place to cover those costs.  We have promises of money from DCC but we can only get that after we have spent the money and produced paid invoices.  Will they put restrictions on what items the 'community budget' can be used for?

(RU) The information which I received and circulated clearly states that DCC will make payments on the production of invoices and that the payments will be made such that we can pay the invoices within the required timescales. They will be particularly sensitive to the payment we have to make to the solicitors for the conveyancing and associated costs.  There has never been a suggestion that we need to pay first and claim back later and there has been no indication that there may be items which are not allowed. 

Do we have any facts as to what the proposed facilities will cost to maintain and run in the future? [I did flag this up in a document in July 2013]

Do we have any fact based idea as to what income may be expected from the various proposed elements of the proposed facilities?

(RU) Whilst we are trying to get a feel for overall costs and income, until we have planning consent, it is impractical to produce all the possible variations of financial plans.  The important thing at this stage is to secure the land for village use in the future.

Do we have any sound information as to potential agreements with the Pharmacy, Doctors or Catering provider?  This would include potential leases, rental agreements, utility agreements, cleaning and maintenance provision and contribution to 'sinking funds'.

(RU) We have no sound information on these matters and until we have planning consent for the required use, we cannot start serious negotiations.  Any lease agreements will be based on a standard templates and we will receive legal advice on the drawing up of specific agreements from these.

Fundraising is being explored now but our main source of hoped for income was Virador and the approach to them was rejected.  What have we to show people we are now approaching?

(RU) We have not given up on Viridor and it needs to be understood that fundraising is an inexact science and very unpredictable.  We will make many applications and will expect a lot of rejections.  There is a management summary document which has been circulated and this together with information relevant to a potential funder will form the basis of our applications.  It is not possible to present a list of funding offers before we accept the offer of the land.  This is why there is a five year window in which to start operations.

A Business Plan has been muted and will be needed.  Will it be placed before Parish Council for approval?

(RU) As we acquire the property and planning application, a full business plan will be developed which will be reviewed and approved by the appropriate body, whether Parish Council, Charity or both.

These issues come to my mind and I am sure others will have concerns/questions.


(RU) Please note
The above questions should have been addressed to the Community sub-committee and are not appropriate for Full Council meetings.  The intention of the item on Thursday’s meeting is to be a formal agreement to do what we have supported and worked towards for many years.  It should be a moment of celebration and achievement and I will be more than disappointed if we choose to pick over the offer which gives us the land for just over £5,000 (until we received the email from Thea, the price was £25,000) even this is being covered by the Ray Radford grant which will also cover the legal and planning submission costs and leave a bit over towards the refurbishment. 

I am saddened that we have failed to complete a structural survey – and we will keep trying – but this ultimately should not change the decision, but will determine which of two plans we follow when we have the knowledge. If the building turn out to be bad (which we don’t believe is the case) we demolish them and start from a clear piece of land.  If the buildings are deemed to be in good condition we will refurbish them.  The refurbishment costs and the demolition costs are about the same. I believe that there is no risk associated with the decision to acquire the land.  If the survey is not available on Thursday, I will ensure that it is circulated, when available, so that we can all have the knowledge to make the decision as to which path we follow after acquisition.

We are acquiring a piece of land which just happens to have buildings on it.  Having the land for the future use of the village is in my view the most important consideration and what I have been pursuing for the past four years.

Should we agree to move ahead in line with the notice of motion, I will ensure that the conveyancing contract is available to the Parish Council members for review prior to signing.  There may be some time pressures but with a structured feedback process we will be able to ensure the in involvement of everyone.

Rather than purchasing the land, this exercise should be regarded as accepting a donation of land, buildings and cash to the village from MDDC, the developer and DCC via our County Councillor.  We cannot put conditions on it and we have to accept the conditions which come with it.  There is no cost to the village for the acquisition through to planning consent.

Do we really want to discuss whether we want to accept this donation to the village in minute detail in a Full Council especially when Richard Chesterton (who worked hard to get this deal) and Ray Radford (who is providing the start-up funding) will be there?  I believe that all the significant issues have been aired fully in the Community sub-committee.

I think we should be seen to be acting in a gracious manner as a professional Parish Council.  We are being given a real opportunity which benefits our village.  This is a cause for celebration. 

CIO application 6th November 2014

This establishes clearly the intention of the Parish Council in applying for the CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation a form of charity which can hold property and employ staff whilst providing limited liability to the Trustees).  It should be noted that Cllr Warren acted as liaison between the Parish Council and the Charity Commission and produced all the documents, getting agreement with the Parish Council before submission. 
(Extracts from the constitution)

    • To establish or secure the establishment of a health and community centre and to maintain or manage or co-operate with any statutory authority in the maintenance and management of such a centre for activities promoted by the charity in furtherance of the above objects.
    • The CIO has power to do anything which is calculated to further its objects or is conducive or incidental to doing so. In particular, the CIO has power to:
      (3) sell, lease or otherwise dispose of all or any part of the property belonging to the CIO. In exercising this power, the CIO must comply as appropriate with sections 117 and 119-123 of the Charities Act 2011;

Intention of the Parish Council in applying for the CIO
(Extracts from the application)

    • to establish and develop the Willand Health and Community Centre as a community asset
    • The provision of a ‘one location’ combined doctor/nurse and pharmaceutical facility
    • potential for day centre and memory cafe for the increasing elderly population
    • Benefit in providing these services at one central site
    • The whole community (public at large) of Willand Parish and the immediate surrounding areas will be able to benefit from the facilities as outlined ‘object’ in Clause 3 of the Constitution of the CIO.
    • When the project is fully complete the Health and Community Centre will house a doctor’s surgery and pharmaceutical services together with rooms for hire and use for individuals and other service providers, a library/book swap service/heritage centre, cafe, coffee shop and day care centre. The ‘public area’ such as the cafe/coffee shop will also be utilised by very small groups for such activities as ‘knit & natter’ and book review groups. These smaller groups would not be viable if they had to hire rooms or space within the project or the nearby village hall.
    • The CIO will operate and maintain premises which will be transferred to it by the Parish Council [Phase 1].
    • The Parish Council will retain the freehold of the land and the CIO will pay a nominal peppercorn ground rent on an extended agreement [initially 99 years].
    • The charity will be responsible for the provision of the extension [Phase 2].
    • When the CIO is registered monies held by the Parish Council from grants for community projects and enhancement will be transferred to the trustees.

Intention of the Parish Council in applying for the CIO
(Extracts from the business plan)

    • The Aims and Objectives will be achieved by:
      1. the provision of a building and external area with parking provision;
      2. the provision of rooms to a medical practice to facilitate the provision of a surgery;
      3. the provision of space to enable an onsite dispensing pharmacy, ancillary services with relevant associated retail facility;
      4. the provision of rooms with suitable facilities for use by alternative therapists and such services as chiropractor or chiropodists;
      5. the provision of a coffee shop/cafe with open space to provide day-care facilities, memory cafe and similar in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies;
      6. meeting and refreshment facilities for small groups such as ‘knit and natter’, book review, mother & toddler;
      7. book swap facility, lending library with computer and internet in partnership with local authority and volunteers;
      8. drop in ‘surgery’ facilities for residents to meet with police, local authority staff and similar advice surgeries;
      9. information technology and other educational and advice services in partnership with statutory and voluntary sector;
      10. display and storage for archive material connected to the history of the village;
        k. the provision of a ‘parish office’ facility.
      11. The Parish Council have set aside modest reserves to help start the project.
        Grants have been obtained from Devon County Council and Mid Devon District Council which are identified for community benefit projects.
        Funding is not available to achieve all the objectives from the start

Queries from the charity Commission 6th January 2015

The Charity Commission noted that there would be a lease between the Parish Council and the Charity  They requested sight of either the lease or the Heads of Agreement .This is a document in simple English which captures the agreements between the two parties and is the starting point for a solicitor when creating a lease... The following heads of agreement were agreed within the Parish Council before being submitted:


Land Leased  - Land allocated for the Willand Health and Community Centre, Gables Road, Willand, Cullompton, EX15 2PL. [Land boundary marked on the attached plan in red.]
Term - A term of 99 years from the date that the lease is completed.
Ground Rent - Peppercorn
Planning - The Lessee shall comply with all planning obligations relating to the Land and any buildings thereon.
Legal Costs - Each party will be responsible for their own legal costs.
Permitted Use - The land may only be used for the provision of health and community services to further or benefit the health and wellbeing of the residents of Willand and the surrounding neighbourhood.
Termination of Lease - In the event that the land is no longer used for the provision of health and community services as described the lease will be terminated to allow Willand Parish Council to meets its obligations under legal agreement..
Landowner - Willand Parish Council

The Charity Commission wish to confirm that the trustees would be truly independent 19th January 2015
The following was the response to the Charity Commission from the Parish Council:

The Independence of Charities from Statutory Authorities
• Are the trustees satisfied that they can meet the above requirements as appropriate to your particular organisation?  Answer: Yes.
• Are the trustees satisfied that they can manage the charity without being required to meet local authority/NHS Trust targets?  Answer: Yes.
• Are the trustees satisfied that they can meet the aims of the organisation without any undue pressure from statutory or any other bodies? Answer: Yes.

Approval of CIO by Charity Commission 9th February 2015

Confirmation of approval for the Charity Came in the form of an email

Registered Charity Number 1160395 WILLAND HEALTH AND COMMUNITY CENTRE

We are pleased to tell you that we are satisfied  WILLAND HEALTH AND COMMUNITY CENTRE is established for charitable purposes for the public benefit. It has therefore been entered onto the Register of Charities with the Registered Charity Number 1160395.

The decision to register  WILLAND HEALTH AND COMMUNITY CENTRE was based on the information supplied during the application process.


Preparing for planning

There were many meetings with the architects who were extremely generous and when they realised what we needed, provided a better design solution, carrying out the work at no cost.  They prepared all the drawings and documentation and dealt with queries from the planning department. 

The planning application 17th November 2014

Extract from the Design and Access Statement

Alterations and Extension to Stable Blocks of the former The Gables site to form New Health and Community Centre in Willand

Proposed Use
It is proposed to locate a Pharmacy and Doctor Surgery in the Centre each being independently managed. The Pharmacy will be located in Block 1 of the complex (see fig.09,10) with dispensing and retail facilities on the round floor with storage and office facilities on the first floor.

The remainder of the complex interior will be developed in stages as funding becomes available and will be driven by priorities identified by community consultation and liaison with statutory and voluntary providers. These facilities will build to a day centre for elderly residents, a memory café with public accessibility, assembly and exercise areas, library/book swap/IT/heritage display area, rooms to be let or made available for alternative medical
therapies, temporary police surgery/CAB, multipurpose education suite or council consultations

The planning approval 16th January 2015

The posted planning consent is copied below

Proposal: Conversion and extension to former stable blocks to form new health and
community centre
Location: The Gables Gables Road Willand Cullompton
Site Vicinity Grid Ref: 303516/110762


This covers the extracts from various documents to establish the intent of the Parish Council.  They say if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck then there is a probability that it is a duck.  The clear intent of the Parish Council was to build a Health and Community Centre.

After achieving a tremendous amount in a short time, the cold shower appeared again in the form of another document from Cllr Warren with many of the same questions which had already been answered following the previous cold shower.  We are not sure why it appeared at this time but here it is dated 5th March 2015 - just after approval of the CIO and the planning consent.  Again, just as we were feeling good... .

Willand Health and Community Centre

This project is very live with momentum which needs to be maintained if it is to stand any chance of realistic fruition.  I am therefore extremely concerned to find that we are not to have the usual beginning of month Community Sub Committee meeting. The imminent change of Parish Clerk also makes it important to keep on top of the project. There is potential for another month to go by and so for this reason I put my thoughts in writing to you.  The forthcoming elections also make my concerns more concentrated.

Currently the decisions are being made and the work commissioned by the Parish Council.  Most of the paperwork has my name on it with some also containing Ray's name.  In theory the Clerk ought to be signing agreements/contracts on our behalf but in reality her workload does not make that practical.

I consider that the time has come to make a decision NOW with one of two options:

1. The Parish Council arrange the necessary lease and transfer the buildings and identified monies over to the Charity.

2. The Parish Council STOP the project here and now and cancel all arrangements with architects and others so that no more money is spent from the Parish finances.

The history of the project and time lost is well recorded and so I will not revisit it. I have always had reservations about the project, its viability and the commitment of the village as a whole to support it in realistic practical terms.  I became involved as the rest of you wished to see it progress. My initial involvement was the offer to prepare the Constitution for the Charity application. It grew because I felt I could contribute the momentum needed.  I am now thinking that my continued involvement is not helping as I get the feeling that most things are being left to me with the rest supporting my suggestions or actions.  I do try and keep everyone involved and take no action without speaking to Ray as he conceived the initial project.  He has retained some actions for his personal attention.  Keith has been active in ‘security’ and liaison with the handyman.

We have five years to have a Community use in place - nine months of that have gone.  The Parish own the land and buildings but in reality that is very conditional.  The involvement of the Pharmacy and Doctors is key to the future viability of the project but they will not wait for ever.  I have managed to keep them onside to date but now I feel that my personal credibility with them is being placed at risk if there is further delay.

It has also been shown that the Parish Council is limited in what it can achieve in fundraising of the meaningful amounts needed.  The Charity has the potential but there are criteria which have to be met. The charity cannot fund raise without having a bank account in place and the VAT issue is still unresolved – applicable at the time of writing.

Dialogue was commenced with Paul Tucker of MDDC regarding assistance with identifying potential funders to whom application could be made.  Four months later and virtually nothing, if anything, has been achieved.

Most applications will require proof of community need and support.  What can we show to date?  The original questionnaires from Jubilee Celebration time were wide ranging and may not be considered specific enough.  The attempt at a village presentation was poorly supported.  A presentation has been prepared and village 'groups' approached. One meaningful response from Cameo which we do not look like actioning until April now!

Can we present a convincing argument?

Most fund providers require a percentage of 'matched funding'. Do we have such money available?

The monies set aside by the Parish Council are now being used for professional fees and we need to have a very up to date running balance sheet as to what has been spent and what we are to be committed to spend.  I think that the Quantity Surveyor quote could take us over the top. Monies will be needed to pay a Solicitor for the lease and transfer arrangements.

(RU) Monies set aside by the Parish Council included a significant donations from DCC, MDDC, TAPS etc for the Willand health and Community Centre..  The heads of agreement stated clearly that each party would pay its own legal costs.

The original survey quoted a figure of £100,000 to refurbish the existing buildings. That was 'revisited to get a better understanding'.  For various reasons we settled for a lesser figure but now have the plan to put in the infill and a figure of £60,000 has appeared.  Has anyone noticed the figure of £250,000 in one of the Quantity Surveyor documents?  (Remember that the Churchyard wall cost £30,000.)

We are pressing on but have no money to do the work.  It has always been said that the Parish Council will not borrow money as there would be 'personal risk' to individual members or it would ‘saddle’ the Parish with ongoing debt.  The charity could borrow money but against what security. The land is not ours to dispose of if we fall into debt (or is it?)

It has been said that some wanted to get the project to a position that it would not be possible to stop.  I do not think that we should put the Parish or the community in that position.


...And another a month later.  During a meeting with the architect, Cllr Warren accused the architect of taking backhanders. I was horrified!  It seems he did it again on the telephone resulting in the email below.  The architect has since declined to work with us again.

Dear Barry,


Please find attached a set of our drawings which were issued to MGA Consultants on 23.03.15. Obviously these have been developed further since then but these will help with your discussions with the Pharmacists.  Also attached are the Structural Engineer’s drawings and calculations for your records which have been incorporated into our drawings now.  The files are quite large, so will send over two emails.


Following our telephone conversation I can acknowledge your comments on the size of doctor’s doors to be 900mm clear opening and there is only the need for one sink in the location shown.  We await comments from the Pharmacist on their specification etc.  With regards the drainage, once the survey has been undertaken we will be able to advise more accurately on the best solution to deal with the roofs which discharge onto neighbouring land.


I thought it prudent to expand upon a couple of items discussed on the telephone. 


Firstly, we certainly do not take backhanders from contractors or other consultants, to do so would violate the RIBA Code of Conduct that as a chartered company within the profession we sign up to.  We do however have a variety of contractors and consultants we have worked with successfully previously whom we can recommend to yourselves,  You are then welcome to use them or select others recommended by alternative parties.  At tender stage, we will be suggesting both Morgan Sindall and Henry Pollard & Sons are put forward as they have successfully completed similarly sized projects but you may decide not to ask them to tender which is your prerogative.  We look forward to receiving details of local contractors who you may think are suitable for the project so that they too may be considered for the tender list.


Secondly, I understand your concern about employing a number of consultants during the construction phase, however your point that yourself or someone from Willand Parish Council can instruct the contractor on changes or door locations for example was equally worrying.  As previously discussed, it is those kind of actions that will increase your overall build cost as any changes on site will constitute variations to the contract and can rapidly spiral out of control.   Furthermore, for the construction phase to have any semblance of steadiness, all instructions to the Contractor must come through the Contract Administrator, which on this occasion will be GJR.  Otherwise it will make for a very complicated build and again costs will spiral.


We hope the above clarifies the issues discussed on the telephone call.  We talked about a sit down meeting to run through QS quotes, could I suggest Wednesday 15thApril at 10am in our office?  Looking at Alan’s diary he will be free as well.


Kind regards

The tender process.

Tenders went out to a number of developers and builders selected by the architects and the Parish Council.  A number declined to bid.  Of the ones who did the quotations were in the range of £500,000 and £750,000 plus vat. for just refurbishing the existing buildings and providing a covered are between them.  The rough estimate from the developer of the gables site was that the cost for constructing a new building including the annexe would be in the region of £800,000.  Refurbishment was not an option.

Coming next;

Timeframe 2 A tale of two leases

NB there will be those who will say that extracts from documents have been taken out of context.  I have tried to embed full documents where possible.  I will publish links to all documents referenced in these articles so that you can download and read them at your leisure.


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