Owl says: they don’t mention the district heating system – which keeps residents tied to one supplier – E.on – for 80 (yes EIGHTY years)!
“Local authorities and developers are charging for supplying services in new towns that are free to other homeowners.
Residents of a new town in Devon are being charged an extra £370 a year in council tax in a practice — already being called “the new town tax” — that could spread across the country.
Cranbrook, a new town to the east of Exeter, is charging band F properties a £370 surcharge, rising to £512 for band H properties. Residents receive no more services than people elsewhere in Devon.
Mark Williams, chief executive of East Devon district council, said: “It is very likely that other towns not just in East Devon but elsewhere will have to adopt a similar approach if they wish to maintain their local assets or facilities.
“We believe that the approach adopted by Cranbrook town council is likely to be replicated across the country, especially in areas where there are areas of significant new housing.”
Cranbrook, whose population will eventually exceed 25,000 people, was managed by developers who levied an “estate rent charge” on residents.
The charge was a contribution for the upkeep of facilities such as landscaped gardens and bin collections. When the town council took over responsibility for the services, it kept most of the charge as an addition to the council tax.
Activist groups have sprung up to help residents nationally who have moved into new homes only to discover they are at the mercy of developers on service costs for green spaces or parking. Developers can levy fees because local authorities are not obliged to “adopt” new housing and provide the services.
Cathy Priestley of Homeowners Rights Network, a pressure group, has been contacted by people from 457 new estates housing 86,000 residents with fees ranging from £100 to more than £700 a year. The developers include Bovis, Linden, Persimmon, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey.
She said: “Buyers are lumbered with hidden estate taxes no matter who collects them or who is to blame for this set-up. Stop the rot! Adopt the lot!”
The prospect of permanent higher council taxes for buyers of homes on greenfield sites will be controversial. The government is supporting a housebuilding drive intended to benefit younger people and the “squeezed middle”.
Kevin Blakey, chairman of Cranbrook council, justified the council tax surcharge by saying a lot of people “simply couldn’t afford” to pay the developer’s flat-rate service charge “and the collection rates were going to be pretty awful”.
He added: “There are no council houses but 40% of the first phase of development was given over to social housing managed by housing associations. These charges [were] being applied to people in East Devon who are probably least able to afford it.”
Blakey said that even though the town council would provide services more efficiently than the developers, the charges reflected the cost of maintaining trees and green spaces, including a country park, insisted on by the district council. The residents have to meet the costs even though it is open to everyone. “Our arguments have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
Williams said: “There are no rules. The government has allowed developers to pass their obligations directly onto new home owners and the ability to remedy the situation lies with the government. This is a national issue.”
Source: Sunday Times (paywall)