Cranbrook attempts to rid itself of the developers’ “estate rent charge”

Cranbrook’s estate rent charge – currently around £150 per year per household – may be scrapped if plans by Cranbrook Town Council (CTC) go ahead.

If approved, the annual charge – for the management of Cranbrook’s public spaces, including play areas and the Country Park – would be replaced next April by an increase in CTC’s element of the East Devon District Council (EDDC) council tax bill.

But the increase won’t be a flat rate.

It would be a banded charge, depending on the rateable value of a property.

However, CTC believes its proposal will save people money. The council says that ‘considerable’ savings would be achieved by ‘cutting out’ expensive collection, legal and administration costs, removing management layers and being able to negotiate maintenance contracts.

In addition, all households in Cranbrook would contribute towards the maintenance of facilities within the town’s boundaries, whereas at present the estate rent charge is limited to those who purchase homes from the main consortium of developers.

“This is a significant step for the town,” said Cllr Kevin Blakey, CTC’s chairman. “The estate rent charge has been a continual source of concern for residents with the threat that the management company may seek to collect substantial back-payments and also raise charges without any apparent checks and balances.

“Some residents may feel this change is unfair, but based on the savings which the town council can make and the fact that we feel that it is fairer for all households to contribute to the maintenance of public amenities and facilities, we believe this is the right thing to do.

“It also provides an opportunity for those less able to pay to apply the current arrangements for council tax relief.

The developers and CTC are keen to reach an agreement.

Cllr Kevin Blakey said: “Both parties are working on the basis that the agreement would provide a clean break between the current estate rent charge position and the future. The town council wants to take control of the estate rent charge, once and for all.”

CTC has issued a Q&A sheet at:

Cranbrook favoured over rural areas for bus services

Yet another blow for rural towns and villages where bus servicex have been cut so people can’t get into Exeter or the Science Park or the Lidl depot if they don’t have cars.

Bus operator Stagecoach has announced additional journeys on one of its popular routes.

The changes, which will be implemented on its 4 route on October 16, include a new 5.36am journey from Exeter Bus Station to Cranbrook running seven days a week.

The return journey to the bus station from Cranbrook will leave at 6.09am.

The route will also provide a later bus to and from Cranbrook on Sundays.

Under the revised changes, the last service from Exeter Bus Station to Cranbrook will be at 9.36pm and the last service from Cranbrook to Exeter Bus Station will be at 10.09pm.

The full 4 route runs from Exeter to Axminster, stopping at Cranbrook, Ottery St Mary and Honiton along the way.”

Very healthy salaries to promote health in Cranbrook (unfortunately, nowhere else)

£53,152 – £57,861 pro rata for 14 hours per week

Devon County Council are recruiting for a Programme Director and Programme Manager to work on the Cranbrook Healthy Town project. Both posts are part time, fixed term for 18 months.

Applications are welcome from people with experience of working in health care, commissioning, public health, local government and /or voluntary sector and this includes those who are interested in the posts as a secondment opportunity.

The Programme Director post will ensure the successful delivery of the Cranbrook Healthy New Town programme outcomes through effective leadership and dynamic partnership working. Working to the Executive Group, the Programme Director will secure commitment to a shared vision and set a clear direction for the second phase of the programme. The Programme Director will ensure that partner engagement and contributions translate into positive programme outcomes. Engaging and collaborating with relevant business partners at strategic level to stimulate innovation within the programme is a priority for this post. Year three funding for the Cranbrook Healthy New Town programme from NHS England is contingent upon successful delivery of year two outcomes.

This is a temporary post offered for 18 months.

Devon County Council will be hosting this post on behalf of the Cranbrook Healthy New Town Executive Group.

You will be expected to travel within Devon and across England to engage fully with national programme events, which may be held in London or at any of the other nine demonstrator sites.”

After freehold leases another scam: unadopted roads

Rumour has it there are many such roads in our part of the world …

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, 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

How do you spot a development site? Look for a road tunnel!

This article contains a useful overview of the Clyst Honiton bypass tunnel, whose lights are being replaced by LEDs.

But the accompanying aerial view of it is the more interesting photo:

It is a “Growth Point” development site

and, obviously, a new road could not interfere with that given its access to vastly more development land a la Lidl and Skypark!

With the airport and other developments in “Greater Exeter”, will Cranbrook become one of the most polluted places in Devon?

“Nimbys risk denying my generation an affordable home” – and gushing praise for Cranbrook

Gushing praise for Cranbrook – by someone who appears never to have lived there and seems to have relocated from Devon to London.

It reads to Owl to read like a (not-very-good) essay submitted for the digital journalism course the author has gone to London to study, rather than a well-researched article. Not a quality piece of Guardian journalism or a persuasive testament to the town, with quotes from one resident and the town clerk!

I’ve been priced out of my home city, but Cranbrook, a new town in Devon with cheaper housing, faces prejudice that could deter newcomers

You’ll be easily forgiven if you haven’t heard of Cranbrook, because five years ago this east Devon town was the fields that cornered the historical city of Exeter. Creating this new town has been one of the few attempts to address a national homelessness crisis, now affecting more than 50,000 households across England. Cranbrook is the first new settlement to be developed in Devon since the middle ages.

I grew up in Exeter, watching it blossom from a modest city into a vibrant hub. I’m proud to say that I have come from the liberal bastion of the south-west: it was one of only three constituencies in the region to vote remain, and has long been a Labour stronghold. However, nimbyism has intensified over fears around an “invasion of outsiders”, and of local services becoming overburdened. Cranbrook has felt the brunt of this, with locals demanding that more housing is built – but “not in my backyard”.

The new town has even been branded as a magnet for unruly northerners and the crime capital of the south-west, renamed by some as “Crimebrook”, even though this is not borne out by police statistics. I remember such hostility circulating even before the first brick had been laid. Listeners to The Archers will be all too familiar with this depressing scenario: one current storyline includes growing opposition in Ambridge against the Bridge Farm housing development. Only Emma and Ed Grundy are in favour, it seems. How else can they hope to get a step on the housing ladder?

These nimbys, in real life, deepen the sense of otherness towards not only outsiders, but also to locals like myself who have been priced out of Exeter. The first phase of Cranbrook consisted of 1,120 homes, 40% of which were for social and affordable housing. Of the social housing available, 65% went to applicants with a local connection to east Devon, the other 35% going to local people in Exeter. The town has also received a £20m government investment, which has increased the development of social houses to 500 a year, accelerating Cranbrook’s ambition of expanding to 8,000 homes within the next decade or so.

Drawn to its location and lower house prices, Jacqui Issacs relocated her family to Cranbrook from Oxfordshire three years ago. “I find a much better sense of community here than I ever did in an established village,” she says. A report released earlier this year by the Devon & Cornwall police on the top crime hotspots within the county placed two of Exeter’s streets third and fourth, with one of Cranbrook’s streets ranked seventh. Issacs remarks: “I have never lived somewhere with so much within walking distance – the shops, the country park, pub and so on.”

Unlike the feudal Disneyland of Prince Charles’s Poundbury in nearby Dorset, Cranbrook has no experimental aesthetic. Nimbys see the town as soulless, but it just needs to be lived in a bit more: Issacs is looking forward to “having our own high street one day”. As the town clerk, Janine Gardner, says, Cranbrook is “not to be seen merely as an extension of the nearby Exeter”. The 3,000 Cranbrook residents already have their own doctors, schools, shops and leisure centre. And the town is uniquely youthful, with a high percentage of 24 to 35-year-olds, who can propel such developments.

I now live in the multicultural mecca of London, and feel that Cranbrook could provide a much-needed point of diversity if given the chance. While it is important for the town to build valuable bridges with Exeter, outsiders should be welcomed as enhancing the existing cultural fabric, not unpicking it.

With average house prices almost seven times people’s incomes, becoming a homeowner, especially for people of my generation, is increasingly a fantasy, even in Devon. Cranbrook is an opportunity not only to find a house, but also for us to make a home.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Cranbrook has only just put down its foundations: the nimbys just need to give it the time to build itself up.

• Jessica Cole, 23, an English graduate, will study digital journalism at City University”

Government and developers creating NIMBYs

“The biggest housebuilders are creating growing numbers of nimbys by trampling over communities and building ugly, unaffordable homes, the head of a homelessness charity has warned.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said that developers were putting profits before people and ignoring concerns about the quality and price of new homes.

She blamed the builders for “a huge loss of public faith in our housebuilding system” and called for reforms to planning laws to put people’s needs before corporate profits. “Even when communities create detailed plans for housing developments, these developers brush them aside and build unattractive, unaffordable homes,” she said. “This means many [people] choose to oppose new homes rather than go through a long planning process, only to be ignored in the end.”

The three biggest housebuilders, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Developments, completed more than 46,000 homes last year and shared revenues of more than £11 billion. They made profits of £2.2 billion.

“The government needs to bring in a new way of building homes which listens to local people to build the high quality and genuinely affordable homes they need, along with schools, parks and other amenities,” Ms Neate said. “We once had a proud tradition of housebuilding in this country, as seen in our popular postwar new towns and garden cities, and it is now critical this is revived for the 21st century.”

Her comments came after a survey of more than 3,500 people found that only 13 per cent felt that developers listened to them. Almost 60 per cent said that they would be more inclined to support the building of new homes if they were listened to more keenly. The southeast had the highest proportion of nimbys, at 38 per cent, while the West Midlands had the lowest at 23 per cent.

The Times revealed last month that a consortium of housebuilders behind a new garden town in Devon had watered down its strict design code. The Sherford development on the outskirts of Plymouth was designed by the Prince of Wales’s architects to prove that his model village of Poundbury in Dorset could work on a larger scale.

The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community said that the builders, Bovis Homes, Linden Homes and Taylor Wimpey, used arcane planning laws to renege on their commitments to quality. Ben Bolgar, the foundation’s director, said they were determined to build a “normal, rubbish housing estate” instead. The consortium said the quality of the homes would not be affected.

Stewart Baseley, chairman of the Home Builders Federation, an industry body, insisted that his members “work closely with councils and residents to ensure the homes being built are what communities need”.

“Housebuilders have dramatically increased output to provide desperately needed homes,” he added. “Constructive debate is needed to develop policies that allow more homes to be built as opposed to baseless claims.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)