THE company at the centre of a storm over proposals to sell off five Watchet homes built as ‘affordable rented’ flats and possibly make the tenants homeless also wants to do the same in Dulverton.

Taunton-based Acorn Homes (SW) Ltd has asked Exmoor National Park Authority to allow it to get out of a legal agreement requiring two homes converted from a doctors’ practice to remain as ‘affordable rent’ properties.

Trumpington House, in High Street, was bought after Drs Frederick Ashton and Lee Burton moved to a purpose-built surgery in Amory Road in 2009.

It was previously the site of The New Inn public house, which was demolished in the 1960s for Trumpington House to be built.

A rear view of the Dulverton High Street doctors surgery which was converted to affordable homes by Acorn Homes.
A rear view of the Dulverton High Street doctors surgery which was converted to affordable homes by Acorn Homes. (Ross Campbell)

As in the Watchet case, Acorn Homes wants to dispose of the Dulverton properties as ‘discounted market sales’, meaning they would be sold for 20 per cent below open market value.

The company’s planning director Donna Collier said efforts to find an alternative registered provider to take on the homes had been unsuccessful.

Ms Collier said Acorn had managed the Dulverton properties as the approved provider since they were built in 2013 but could no longer continue to service them.

She said: “Significant efforts have therefore been made to pass these units to an appropriate provider.

“A specialist agent was instructed in May, 2023, to assist with ensuring the offering was well-known to a wide range of potentially interested parties.”

Ms Collier said flats in Malthouse Court and Mill Street Bakery, Watchet, were included with the Dulverton properties to help incentivise a suitable buyer.

However, she said the responses indicated a ‘lack of appetite by a wide range of registered providers operating within the South West region’.

She said: “Among a backdrop of challenging market conditions, key reasons cited for passing up the opportunity are primarily related to the small number of units available and the location of those units being outside of the usual geographical coverage of the providers.

“The combined units offered in both Watchet and Dulverton have not been enough to overcome this issue of quantum.

“It is our sales agent’s advice that inquiries have entirely stopped, having already approached nearly all affordable housing providers in the region, and further or prolonged advertising of the opportunity is in this case unlikely to yield any further interest or offers.

“We feel that all reasonable efforts have been exhausted.

“Therefore, we have no option but to seek to change the tenure.

“In this instance, we are proposing an alternative form of affordable housing which will enable the broad original aims of the obligations to be upheld and will therefore continue to serve a useful purpose.”

The Free Press last week reported how tenants of the Watchet flats new nothing of Acorn’s plans until Somerset Council posted a planning application notice outside the properties.

The tenants, who are elderly or in serious ill-health, said they would not be able to afford to buy the flats and feared that they would be made homeless.