EDDC: What they say, and what Owl thinks they mean

Council spin decoded:

PRESS RELEASE

“The council’s latest annual Working Together for the Future of East Devon conference, which brings together voluntary and statutory organisations, was attended by more than 100 people. Councillor Jill Elson, EDDC’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, who organised the event, said she was delighted with the high level of attendance from voluntary organisations, community groups and town and parish councils.

She said: “Volunteers are becoming essential as a means of helping ensure that people have the best quality of life they can, particularly with more people wishing to be cared for at home.

“Whatever support they offer, all volunteers make a difference and ensure that people’s lives are enriched and that they are not forgotten.” “

DECODED:

We are durned well not going to pay for anything you lot will do for free, so get your noses to the grindstone and save us lots of money to squander on our new HQ. Oh, and although we aren’t respinsible for social care we allowed our Leader to torpedo the NHS, so you’d better fill the gaps because we won’t.

After freehold leases another scam: unadopted roads

Rumour has it there are many such roads in our part of the world …
http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/practical-advice-issued-for-sensible-parking-in-cranbrook-1-3999229
and
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/02/20/cranbrook-estate-rent-charges-another-developer-cash-cow/comment-page-1/

Owners of new homes are living on potholed roads with no street lights or rubbish collection as housebuilders and councils shun the responsibility for road maintenance.

Developers can save thousands by dodging the legal agreements that pass the roads on to local authority control, allowing builders to make roads narrower than usual, for example, and leaving homeowners to pay for the road’s upkeep or see it fall into disrepair.

People living on these unadopted streets have been forced to seek approval from road management committees before selling their homes and say it is harder to find buyers.

The government is to ban new houses from being sold on a leasehold basis to tackle onerous ground rent charges, yet owners of freehold houses on unadopted streets are being “held to ransom” by management companies that charge households up to £660 a year for road maintenance.

“We seem to be rewriting the rules on the way that roads are looked after,” says Derrick Chester, a councillor for Littlehampton and Arun in West Sussex.

Normally housebuilders have new roads “adopted” by the local authority through a legal agreement under Section 38 of the Highways Act 1980, while the sewers underneath are covered by a similar Section 104 arrangement. When the road is left unadopted, homeowners on the road are responsible for its upkeep, and often the sewers and facilities such as playgrounds and parks.

Halima Ali, 30, and her husband bought their freehold four-bedroom home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, from Persimmon, the developer, and believed that the road would later be adopted by the local council. Seven years later the streets around the 120 flats and houses remain unadopted and are deteriorating.

“The street lights have not been fixed for years, so there are areas that are in complete darkness; it is quite scary at night. A neighbour has had a problem with a sewer cover, which is in danger of collapse,” she says. “There is a children’s playground and, even though it is a public park, residents are required to maintain it. The public come and trash it and we can be made to pay for its maintenance, which is outrageous, and we are paying council tax on top.”

Another homeowner, 56, bought a three-bedroom freehold house in Kettering, Northamptonshire, from SDC Builders nine years ago. “At the time it was sold to me as a benefit, your own private neighbourhood, which would be passed into the residents’ control once the developer had left,” she says, “but, as an unadopted road, we have no street lighting, the bin men won’t come down and we are liable if anyone has an accident on the communal land.”

She has been trying to sell her home, but buyers pulled out when they found out about problems with the unadopted road.

She says that SDC Builders set up a limited company for managing the development, which was passed to residents, who elected two neighbours as directors. She was not aware that if she wanted to sell her property it would require the directors’ approval, and they have refused permission over what she says is a trivial disagreement about parking.

Christine Hereward, the head of planning at Pemberton Greenish, the law firm, says councils and highways authorities will only adopt roads if they are built to their standards. Section 38 agreements are also backed by a lump sum, sometimes running to hundreds of thousands of pounds, put down by the housing developer as a bond against the road not being finished properly. Developers receive their bond back only when the road is adopted. Ms Ali says: “Persimmon has not built our road to the required standard. The council won’t adopt it.”

Critics say developers are choosing not to enter into a section 38 agreement so that they can bypass local authority standards; roads can be narrower and car parking spaces smaller than regulations require, for example. They also save tens of thousands by not making the required bond payments.

In 2009 the government estimated that it would cost £3 billion to bring the country’s thousands of unadopted streets up to an adoptable standard. “Developers can achieve cost savings and make their lives easier. It does enable them to construct a substandard highway. It is a shortcut. To be fair to the developers, it is up to councils to enforce the standards,” says a source who did not want to be named. “There is very little sanction.”

The public come and trash the park and we can be made to pay for it
Mr Chester says councils and housebuilders are colluding over the issue because it saves both parties money. “It fits into the narrative about local authority budget cuts,” he says.

Phil Waller, a former construction manager who runs the website Brand-newhomes.co.uk, says: “I know of one development where a fire engine was unable to access a fire because of parked cars and the layout of the road.”

Unlike private roads, which are often gated, unadopted roads appear as ordinary streets. Whether the public has right of way can be uncertain. Mark Loveday, a barrister from Tanfield Chambers in London, says he frequently hears from homeowners who did not realise that their property was on an unadopted road. “What very often happens is nothing is done to the road for many years and it is only when potholes appear and someone living on the road says, ‘hang on, someone should be maintaining this road’”, he says.

Buyers of new-build homes ought to check the specifics of the road before the sale. “This is an important thing that should be flagged up by the solicitor,” says Mr Loveday. Those who are unsure about the status of their road can apply to the Land Registry for details.

Steve Turner of the Home Builders Federation, the trade association, says housebuilders are increasingly in dispute with local authorities and planning departments over the specifications of newly built roads, which is causing delays in local authorities adopting them. “The resolution typically involves the authority demanding more cash,” he says.

‘We may have to pay for the road upgrade’

Residents of unadopted streets often need to take out public liability insurance in case someone is injured on the street.

Keith Beattie used the government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme to buy his house in Haydock, near St Helens, Merseyside, from Westby Homes North West. In February 2014, when he moved in, the road was unfinished, with tarmac not properly laid and potholes filling up with water. The housebuilder went into administration in August. “The administrators have informed us that they won’t be completing the road and paths. St Helens council will not enter a section 38 until the road is brought to an adoptable standard, which it is not,” he says. “As residents, we may have to pay to have the road completed to the council’s standard.”

Source: Times, pay wall

London Mayor asks car manufacturers to contribute to anti-pollution measures

Why stop at London?

Greater Exeter is already polluted by cars streaming into and out of the cities and towns it covers. Who is going to tackle that?

Not our Local Enterprise Partnership, or the Greater Exeter partners that”s for sure – they both want more houses and more roads.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/06/sadiq-khan-asks-car-manufacturers-to-give-funds-towards-tackling-londons-toxic-air

“Wealthy families exploit £7billion Help to Buy home scheme with 40% of recipients on more than £50k a year”

“Wealthy families are exploiting a £7billion government scheme aimed at first-time buyers.

Help to Buy doles out taxpayers’ money so househunters can secure a mortgage.

Almost 135,000 families have taken advantage since its launch in 2013. But four in ten recipients were earning more than £50,000 a year and one in ten was on at least £80,000.

More than 5,000 purchasers had six-figure incomes. Help to Buy has also been highly lucrative for builders and their bosses, accounting for a third of private sales of new homes. …

Profits, share prices and executive bonuses have soared at firms including Barratt, Bellway and Taylor Wimpey. Jeff Fairburn, chief executive of Persimmon, where around half of sales are through Help to Buy, is in line for a £130million payout.

Academics said the scheme – given a £10billion further boost by Theresa May this week – was driving up house prices.

‘Help to Buy is like throwing petrol on to a bonfire,’ said Sam Bowman, of the Adam Smith Institute. ‘This scheme is being used by investment bankers and doctors. They are certainly not the sort of people who the taxpayer should be subsidising.

‘It is astonishing that households earning over £100,000 a year are using it.’

Luke Murphy of the Institute for Public Policy Research, another think-tank, said Help to Buy had made houses less affordable.

‘The two fundamental problems are that it pushes up property prices and that it is primarily helping those who would have been able to buy anyway,’ he added.

‘For those that can’t afford to purchase their own home, Help to Buy is pushing their dream further out of reach.’

A government survey found that 57 per cent of people using Help to Buy said they could have afforded to purchase a home without the scheme. One in five was not a first-time buyer at all.

Shelter said the scheme was making it progressively harder for renters to get on the housing ladder. ‘Extending Help to Buy is the wrong priority,’ said Polly Neate, the charity’s chief executive.

‘It has barely helped the first-time buyers it is targeted at and has done nothing to help those worst affected by our broken housing market.’

Mark Littlewood, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘Not only does Help to Buy completely fail to recognise why the cost of housing is so high in the first place, it will also fail to benefit many of the people it’s designed to help. The policy, which encourages people to take on debt they cannot afford in order to boost demand and lead to a rise in house prices is improvident, reckless and wrong.’

The Treasury has insisted the extra £10billion of funding will help another 135,000 families ‘make their dream of owning a home a reality’. When the house is sold, the Government takes the same proportion of the sale price as it loaned at the time of the initial purchase. If the house price has gone up, the government makes money, if it has fallen, the taxpayer makes a loss.
There is also a Help to Buy Isa and a Help to Buy shared ownership scheme.
The five biggest stock market listed builders made combined profits of more than £3billion last year.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4957030/Wealthy-families-exploit-7billion-Help-Buy-home-scheme.html

“Coasting schools”not dealt with despite government promise to do so

“No ‘coasting’ schools have been forced to become academies despite a Tory manifesto pledge two years ago, new figures show.

In the run up to the 2015 election, the Conservatives promised to take over every school not considered to be pushing its pupils hard enough.

Hundreds of schools were thought have to been in this category – but new data released under the Freedom of Information Act suggests none have become academies as a result.

The Department for Education said that forced academisation was only ever intended for ‘a small minority of cases’ …

Of the 756 schools and academies that were branded as ‘coasting’ and have not since closed, more than half – 51 per cent – were told no further action was needed, and 49 per cent were told they needed some extra support.
In only one case did Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) use any of their other powers – a termination warning notice was issued to the Basildon Upper Academy. …”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4957476/No-coasting-schools-forced-academies.html

Ah, it’s not council housing, it’s “affordable” rents from developers!

“We will provide £2bn more funding [ie not BUILDING, FUNDING] for the affordable housing programme.

This will increase the government’s 2016-21 affordable homes programme to £9.1bn. This extra £2bn will lever in a total investment of £5bnn (public and private) in new housing. [Is the private sector really chipping in, of course not, it’s creative accounting!]

In those areas of the country where rents are high, we will allow bids for social rent, which are further below market rents. [ALL areas of the country have rents t

With a typical subsidy of £80,000, £2bn investment can supply around 25,000 homes available for social rent.

This compares with an additional 6,800 social rent homes delivered in 2015-16.

To help encourage more investment in social housing, we will create a stable financial environment by setting a long-term rent deal for councils and housing associations. This will give them the security and certainty to invest and build more.

We will encourage councils as well as housing associations to bid for this funding so that we can deliver a new generation of council homes in this country.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/blog/live/2017/oct/04/conservative-conference-2017-theresa-may-to-announce-council-house-building-programme-politics-live