“Angry homebuyers plan class-action lawsuit against Bovis”

One of the examples cited in the article is from Cranbrook. See last paragraph of this post. Though most problems in this area seem to centre on Axminster.

Bovis Homes, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, faces a potential class-action lawsuit from a group of buyers who accuse it of selling houses riddled with defects.

Puneet Verma bought a five-bedroom house with his wife for £485,000 in Milton Keynes two years ago but says he still has a list of 120 snags. He is now consulting two law firms, Leigh Day and Slater & Gordon, about taking group action.

“I have had a survey done by a chartered surveyor that categorically states the workmanship is extremely poor and that Bovis is not in compliance with building regulations,” Verma says. “Bovis has treated, and continues to treat, its customers appallingly and now the only way to get our problems resolved is to take legal action.”

Verma is aiming to raise a £100,000 fund through a £100 contribution per homeowner, assuming 1,000 of the 2,500-strong Bovis Homes Victims group on Facebook sign up.

It has been almost a year since the housebuilder issued a profit warning and was accused of paying thousands of pounds in cash incentives to get buyers to move into unfinished homes. As the scandal widened, the company set aside £7m to fix defects and appointed a new chief executive.

A year on, some Bovis homeowners say they will be spending Christmas in houses that are riddled with faults, including leaks, moving and creaking floors, lack of insulation and sewage backups, as well coping with shoddy workmanship.

Ian Tyler, the chairman of Bovis, apologised to buyers in May for “letting them down” and admitted the firm had been cutting corners to hit ambitious targets. The company says it slowed production to iron out build problems, retrained sales staff and set up an advisory homebuyers panel, which has met once.

Dave Howard, who set up the Facebook group with his wife, Ann, and who sits on the panel, doubts whether Bovis has made any progress on improving build standards and customer service. He claims homeowners who report problems are being referred to the National House Building Council (NHBC), the standard-setting body and main home construction warranty provider for new-builds in the UK. But in the first two years after purchase the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying defects.

“We have had constructive contact with the new customer experience director, but there are too many people hitting brick walls with Bovis and NHBC,” Howard says. “Some new customers have had better experiences but that seems to have slipped too.”

Bovis says: “We have made significant changes to how we operate in 2017 and a growing majority of our customers would now recommend us to family and friends.

“We remain determined to make things right for customers who raise warranty items and apologise to those to whom we have not previously delivered the high levels of quality and service they rightly expected.” …”

[The article concludes with several examples of bad workmanship in various parts of the country including this one] …

Pete Oldham and his wife, a retired couple, bought a three-bedroom semi-detached house in Cranbrook, Devon, for £234,995 in December 2015. “All the floors move,” Oldham says. “When you walk into a room the furniture moves. They haven’t fitted things properly but are in denial.” He says the floor joists should be 400mm apart, not 600mm. There has been a breakdown in communication with Bovis and he has been referred to NHBC.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/dec/09/bovis-homebuyers-class-action-lawsuit-property-defects

Cranbrook: bad news for E.on? Regulator to investigate district heating networks

Residents of Cranbrook are stuck with E.on for 80 years unless things change as reported by Owl here in February 2017:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2017/02/05/cranbrooks-district-heating-system-under-fire-no-switching-allowed-and-developers-get-a-cut-for-80-year-contract/

and here in 2016:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2016/07/28/cranbrook-what-can-happen-when-you-are-tied-to-one-district-heating-energy-supplier/

“The UK’s competition regulator has announced that it is launching a comprehensive study into domestic heat networks to make sure that households are getting a good deal.

Competition and Markets Authority on Thursday said that heat networks – systems that heat multiple homes from one central source – currently supply about half a million UK homes through about 17,000 networks.

Between now and 2030, the number of customers using heat networks is expected to grow significantly to around 20 per cent of all households. But the sector is not currently subject to the same regulation as other forms of energy supply such as mains gas and electricity.

The CMA said that, as a result of that, it’s concerned that many customers, a large proportion of whom live in social housing, may be unable to easily switch suppliers or are locked into very long contracts – some for up to 25 years.

There’s a risk, the regulator said, that they may be paying too much or receiving a poor quality of service.

It said that its study into the networks would examine whether customers are aware of the costs of heat networks both before and after moving into a property and whether heat networks are natural monopolies. It would also look at the prices, service quality and reliability of heat networks.

“Heat networks can play an important role in cutting carbon and keeping down energy bills for customers. However, we have concerns that this sector may not be working as well as it could be for the half a million homes heated by these systems now and the millions that may be connected in the future,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA.

“That is why we’re taking a closer look at this market to ensure that heat network customers get a good deal on their energy now and in the future.”

The CMA study will be completed within the next 12 months. It said that it would source evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, including heat network builders and operators, other government departments, local authorities, sector regulators and consumer groups.

An interim report updating on the CMA’s progress will be published in six months.

Heating networks can be better for the environment because they deliver lower carbon emissions, which can also result in cost benefits for households.

Because of this, heat networks have become an important part of the Government’s strategy to reduce carbon and cut heating bills.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-domestic-heat-networks-review-competition-markets-authority-review-regulator-a8096396.html

Another new-build developer scam

Estate rent charges apply in Cranbrook:

Thousands of homeowners on private estates are facing unregulated and uncapped maintenance fees, amid allegations that developers have created a cash cow from charging for communal areas not maintained by the council.

Management contracts for “unadopted” private estates are frequently sold off to speculators and property management companies in the same way as freeholds and ground rents – leaving homeowners with spiralling fees and nowhere to turn.

If a new-build estate is “unadopted” it means communal areas such as roads, grass verges, pavements and playgrounds are retained by the developer. The developer then usually sub-contracts day-to-day management.

These companies then pass on the costs to homeowners (both freeholders and leaseholders) via a deed of transfer which obliges the homeowner, under the Law of Property Act 1925, to pay for maintenance of this land. This is often referred to as an “estate charge” or “service charge”. These are on top of full council tax – even though the council doesn’t maintain their street.

Critics say the system is open to abuse because management companies have no obligation to keep costs down or provide evidence the services they charge for are being carried out. Buyers may find the bills spiral as soon as a management contract is sold on.

Lynn Myers bought her two-bed leasehold house in Penrith, Cumbria, from developers Persimmon in September 2016. The sales agent told her the estate would be managed by Carleton Meadows Management Company with an estate charge of £100 a year per household for grass cutting.

When Gateway Property Management took over in July 2017 it tripled the fee to £308 a year – that’s £17,000 from the 55 residents. Myers alleges that the fee includes more than £3,000 “postage”.

“I am on a lower-end income and ploughed my late husband’s insurance money into this property,” says Myers. “I worry that I will be unable to afford this on top of full council tax etc, and also I will be unable to sell. I have been mis-led by Persimmon and the government.”

Persimmon says the initial costs had been miscalculated and that it was working with Gateway to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, 40 miles away across the Lake District, residents in Church Meadows in Great Broughton are in a similar situation. Richard Elsworth moved into his Persimmon-built freehold property in May 2013. The estate’s 58 residents each pay Gateway a service charge of £125.53 a year, amounting to £7,281 to maintain about 600 square metres of grass.

But Gateway’s charges don’t stop there. When Elsworth’s neighbours sold their home, they were charged £360 for a “management pack” for the buyer, plus £144 for a deed of covenant.

“The only part of the pack that is relevant to the sale is a financial statement so that the service charge information is available to the prospective buyer. As the properties are freehold, Gateway has no responsibility whatsoever for the conveyancing process, other than to receive a deed of covenant from the conveyancing solicitors,” says Elsworth.

Gateway claims it provided an “often exhaustive” amount of information to purchasers’ solicitors when a sale takes place. It said it was common practice for managing agents to charge fees for sales packs and additional legal documentation. It says: “The information we are asked to provide varies from development to development and this is reflected in the amount we charge ranging from £150-£300 plus VAT.

“It is best-practice for the information to be prepared by professionally qualified staff because purchasers are reliant on information being accurate to enable the sale to proceed as smoothly as possible. Typically, a sales pack contains in excess of 25 pages and is tailored to the development.”

Privates estates were debated in parliament earlier this month. Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood in Kent, told MPs how homeowners in Hoo bought from Taylor Wimpey and Bellway but are now in dispute with their property management company, SDL Bigwood.

Tolhurst went on to criticise Hyde Housing Association, and London and Quadrant. The latter tried to charge residents at Lodge Hill, Chattenden, for street lamps and street cleaning undertaken by Medway Council.

The Homeowners’ Rights Network (Hornets) is the campaign group fighting for a fairer deal for homeowners on private estates. Its main issue is a lack of a cap on charges and that homeowners don’t have a choice of provider. And, if homeowners have a dispute, there’s no resolution service in place.

Cathy Priestley, spokesperson for Hornets and a freeholder on a private estate, says the private estate model seems to be the norm for new-build estates. “We can only speculate as to why this has happened. The main benefactors are the plc developers who get to keep the estate land, don’t have to prepare it to adoption standards and don’t have to pay for its maintenance or the commuted sums for adoption,” she says. “All councils have to do, under planning, is to ensure there is a long-term sustainable arrangement to maintain the land (under the Town and Country Planning Act). They seem to readily accept assurances from the developers that the management company will deliver this. They don’t appear to have thought about how this affects homeowners.”

While leasehold owners have some (albeit limited) statutory protection, freeholders have very few options. They can take cases to court, but this can be expensive and time consuming. If they decide to simply not pay, they can ultimately lose their home. “Any arrears will normally be recoverable as a debt claim in the county court.

“However, homeowners should be cautious as the rent charge owner may have a number of options including the ability to take possession of the property,” says Adrian McClinton, associate solicitor at Coffin Mew.”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/dec/02/homeowner-freehold-management-fees-unadopted?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Cranbrook: penny pinching causes problems at railway station?

A correspondent in Cranbrook writes:

“I went to park at the train station this morning and a car had got stuck trying to gain access to the parking area … Most of the cars were parked OUTSIDE the designated area due to the fact that the entry with those barriers is TOOOO narrow ..What a waste of money ..

A bit like many Cranbrook garages, where the passenger has to get out before the driver goes in as they are so narrow, or those roads that are too narrow so cars park half-on the pavement – a problem for years as this article from 2013 illustrates:

“… Kelly Curran lives in Mead Cross. She’s also witnessed poor parking.

“It’s a sore subject with a lot of people,” she says. “The builders park everywhere, taking up a lot of parking spaces. They park in front of people’s drives, sometimes they just park their vehicles right on the pavement, so you’re forced out into the road.”

Local residents have also started parking on the pavement, because the roads – especially the side streets, such as Mayfield Way, Henry’s Run and Mead Cross – are narrow. …

The police are concerned about poor car parking in Cranbrook.

“Some of the parking is fairly bad,” says Cranbrook’s Police Community Support Officer Jack Stannard. “If it’s horrendous, then I go and speak to the owner of the vehicle.”

The local police has also posted a Think Before You Park flier on a Cranbrook Facebook page, flagging up that ‘sensible parking could save a life’.

The fire service is also concerned.

“We have been visiting the area and working with the community to ensure there is adequate access for all emergency service vehicles,” says a spokesman. “When we see a vehicle that might cause an obstruction, we are either speaking to the driver direct or leaving a polite notice.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that emergency vehicles are not delayed getting to incidents.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/practical-advice-issued-for-sensible-parking-in-cranbrook-1-3999229
Penny pinching gone mad.

“Fears of Exeter housing crisis as figures reveal population growth outstripping new homes”

And what starts in Exeter ripples immediately to East Devon – where the western side is now just another “Greater Exeter” suburb.

“Exeter would need to build houses more than twice as fast if it wanted to keep up with population growth.

The number of homes being built in the area actually dropped last year, the latest figures show – and housing is growing at a far slower
rate than the booming population.

… Government data reveals 450 homes were built in Exeter in 2016-17 – down from 651 the year before – bringing the total number of houses and flats to around 53,930.

That works out as a growth in Exeter housing of 0.84 per cent in the last year.

In comparison, the population of the area grew by nearly 2,500 people between mid-2015 and mid-2016 – the latest data available.

It means only one new home is being built for every six extra people in the area.

Population growth in Exeter is fuelled by both ‘natural’ factors – more births than deaths – as well as immigration from other parts of
the UK and abroad.

Thanks to this there are now nearly 130,000 people living in Exeter – a growth of 1.96 per cent in a single year.

It means the population in the area is growing more than twice as fast as homes are being built – one of the worst discrepancies seen in the
whole of England.

Across the country, rates of house building have actually overtaken total population growth in the last year, with the number of homes in
England increasing by more than 217,000 in 2016-17.

That brings the total number of dwellings in the country to around 24 million – up by 0.92 per cent on the year before. …”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/fears-exeter-housing-crisis-figures-811954

New Cranbrook Play Area – a muddy situation

CRANBROOK TOWN COUNCIL FACEBOOK PAGE:

NORTHWOOD ACRES PLAY AREA – OPENING CEREMONY POSTPONED
East Devon District Council is sorry that the opening of the Northwood Acres play area has been postponed, so won’t now take place on Saturday 18 November.

This is due to safety concerns and poor ground conditions following heavy rain which will delay the opening by up to 3 weeks and allow outstanding landscaping work to be completed safely.

COMMENTS ON CRANBROOK TOWN COUNCIL WEBSITE:

Perhaps in those 3 weeks they could move the gate to the park so it doesn’t open directly onto a road?

I live opposite the park gate and have raised this as a concern since day 1, I know how fast some people come round that corner and it is an accident waiting to happe

Cranbrook (Preferred Approach) consultation opens

PRESS RELEASE

“Cranbrook Plan – Preferred Approach

We are delighted to advise that East Devon District Council are consulting on the above plan and we would welcome your comments that need to be received by us by

9:00 am on Monday 8 January 2018.

The Cranbrook Plan Preferred Approach documents set out proposals for the future development of the town and they include a masterplan that shows the proposed location of differing types of buildings and land uses including homes, shops, community facilities and open spaces. In the consultation documents we provide details of evidence and background reports that support the Cranbrook work and we also have a schedule of potential future policies for Cranbrook development and a sustainability appraisal.

The feedback we receive from this consultation will help inform production of a formal development plan document (or DPD) for the town that we hope to produce and consult on in 2018 and then to formally submit for independent examination. You can find out more about the Cranbrook Plan – Preferred Approach, look at supporting documents and find out how to make comments by visiting our web site at:

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/cranbrook-plan/cranbrook-plan-preferred-approach-consultation

and

http://eastdevon.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/cranbrook-plan/get-involved-share-your-views

Do please contact us if you have any queries or would like further information. We would advise that we are contacting you because your details are logged on our planning policy database or you have previously responded to Cranbrook consultation events. If, however, you no longer wish to be contacted by this Council in respect of planning policy documents do please advise us and we will remove your details from our database.”

Yours faithfully
The Cranbrook Team
East Devon District Council