The new “sustainable” villages – beware estate rentcharges

Cranbrook has not recovered from the arrangenent where developers imposed charges on residents of their estates for such things as gardening and maintenance. In the end, the town council took over these charges and spread them over ALL residents, many of whom were naturally upset at extra charges they had never signed up for.

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/06/25/estate-rent-charges-another-warning-on-new-builds-such-as-those-in-cranbrook/

Now, the new (brutalist architecture) estate developer in Exeter says it will severely restrict parking by having only 185 car parking spaces for 400 homes and residents will need permits to use the spaces.

BUT enforcement of these parking restrictions will be done by “a specialist management company which will patrol the site to ensure vehicles are parked within dedicated spaces and to ensure that non-residents aren’t using the site”.

And who will pay these charges? Just those who have parking spaces or ALL residents? And who will control escalation of the charges?

A correspondent explains why he won’t be voting Conservative on Thursday

Unless your readers live in a new house on an estate they will have little understanding of what happens today.

I moved onto a new estate which had a grassed open area. I was aware that there was some infrastructure to prevent flooding beneath it and knew that I would have to pay a share of the upkeep. I did not fully understand was that it was a public open space which was available for anyone’s use, not just the residents on the estate.

Maintenance charges have rocketed whilst quality of service has been poor. Any talk of with holding service charge payments is referred promptly to debt recovery. The whole system is unregulated and frankly, stinks.

I have dug deep to try to understand how a simple purchase of a freehold house is suddenly caught up in a land charge where I am compelled to pay for maintenance of land owned by someone else.

The root cause of the problem seems to have started with the council. In this case EDDC. As part of the planning condition for the estate the developer had to provide a public open space and a SUDS system to prevent flooding. In all probability it was an attempt by the council to stick their fingers up at the developers and force them to provide facilities for public benefit at no cost to the local authority.

The next stage was to make the developers responsible for the maintenance of the new open spaces. They could either do that themselves or pay a lump sum to the council to maintain it for the next 25years. Clearly the developers were unable to afford that so they passed the maintenance charges on to the residents within the title deeds for each house.

That was very unpopular and most developers, wanting to distance themselves from the problem, gave the piece of public land to a land management company. It seems that none of those companies are regulated and can charge what they like. If you don’t pay their bill they could apparently seize your house. All quite outrageous.

There has been lots of bad press about these land management companies and the matter discussed in Whitehall although the housing minister has taken little interest.

In East Devon our Conservative council has decided to stick their nose in the trough and has decided to offer to take over the public open spaces at Cranbrook and offer to carry out the maintenance of the public open spaces and charge F band houses £370 per annum and H band houses £512 per annum. Both of those figures are in addition to the normal council tax which is supposed to cover supply and maintenance of public open spaces !!

So lets look at this…. EDDC created the problem by insisting that the developer provide the public open spaces which the council had no intention of maintaining. When it all starts to go wrong EDDC offer to take the responsibility over but only by penalising the residents who live on those estates.

To make it clear those public open spaces are available for use by anyone. So maintenance of those public open spaces should be maintained at public expense. The costs must be paid out of council tax revenue.

This mess has been created by EDDC who enjoy a massive Conservative majority. Any proposals are just nodded through without opposition.

I have always voted Conservative in the past but things have got out of hand. Things must change. The public has a chance to voice their opinion in the local elections on 2nd May.

I know I won’t be for any Conservative Councillor and no, it’s got nothing to to with Brexit….”

Developers (“Cranbrook Limited”) still seem to hold all the cards in the town

From Town Council website:

“For distribution – question: What is “Cranbrook Limited” referred to in the last line?

Town Council site:

“The Town Council has been advising previously that we have been chasing the Consortium to release householders from the rent charge deed and yesterday we received the following statement:

“The development partners, Persimmon Homes, Taylor Wimpey and Hallam are continuing to work with their agents to conclude the Estate Rent Charge audit process and Deed of Release on final payment of balances due from each household. Please bear with us as we complete these tasks. We will continue to liaise with the Town Council on this and update you further in due course.”

Whilst we are doing all we can to help progress this matter, the Town Council is not responsible for the development and distribution of the documentation which removes the rent charge deed from individual households – it is and remains the responsibility of Cranbrook Limited.

The Town Council will continue chasing this matter on a regular basis.”

“Estate rent charges” – another warning on new-builds such as those in Cranbrook

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/jun/25/footballer-zeli-ismail-rentcharge

Already covered by Owl as regards Cranbrook here:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/01/12/cranbrook-herald-reports-on-estate-rent-charges/

and what had to be done here:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/01/26/cranbrook-estate-rent-charges-to-be-transferred-to-council-tax/

Tonight’s Countryfile: how to rewild a disused quarry – one for Clibton Devon Estates to watch?

“Ellie and Matt are in Cambridgeshire where Matt is looking at a huge project to turn a quarry into the UK’s biggest reed bed. Thousands of tons of sand and gravel are being shifted at Ouse Fen to create the perfect habitat for wildlife.”

BBC1 18.30 hrs

Cranbrook Herald reports on estate rent charges

Owl broke this story on 2January:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/01/02/cranbrook-residents-very-unhappy-about-estate-rent-charge-bills/

Now Cranbrook Herald has taken it up:

“The unexpected demand for payment caused uproar on social media, distressing many during the festive break.

One resident said the company which sent the letter was using ‘scare-mongering tactics’.

Another said the matter was a ‘disgrace’.

The estate and asset management company Blenheims sent the bill on behalf of the Cranbrook Consortium and FPCR (which provides the town’s landscape and horicultural services).

In the letter – delivered to all Cranbrook households on Friday, December 22 – Blenheims explained that the annual Estate Rent Charge (ERC), which meets the cost of maintaining the public open spaces and amenity areas had been reviewed.

Previously set at £150 per annum – based on an ‘historic and initial assessment of the annual costs’ – the Consortium had increased the ERC to £231.76, to reflect actual accounting figures. These suggested that the total costs of the 2017-18 ERC were £370,816. Split between 1,600 properties, this came to £231.76 per household.

In many cases, the £231.76 demand was reduced to £194.26, taking into account an initial quarterly ERC instalment paid by residents of £37.50.

The letter implied that the £194.26 needed to be paid in one sum. There was also confusion about when the money needed to be paid, with some residents believing it had to be within 10 working days.

There was no suggestion of being able to pay in instalments (although Blenheims has since said that there are three payment dates – January 22, February 1 and March 1).

Having received their bills, Cranbrook residents found Blenheims had shut for Christmas, and initially there was no one available to discuss the issue.

At the request of Cranbrook Town Council (CTC), the Reverend Lythan Nevard – Cranbrook’s minister and a Belonging to Cranbrook Facebook moderator – offered advice for residents, posting her thoughts on social media.

On January 2, CTC posted its own advice on its website, describing the timing of the letter as ‘unfortunate’, and Blenheims has since issued a ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQ) document.

“I think the timing of the Blenheims’ letter was poor at best,” said a Cranbrook resident, who did not wish to be named. “Some people were concerned that if they just cancelled their direct debits, they would end up with bailiffs at their door after Christmas.”

“It was a disgrace to receive a letter demanding payment of £231.76 within ten days, and especially at this time of the year,” said another resident.

In its FAQ to residents, Blenheims said the payment demand was issued on December 22 in advance of the next collection date, December 25, and was ‘in accordance’ with residents’ ERC deed.

It also issued advice for those that had cancelled their direct debit or hadn’t returned their mandate and explained why the ERC was being increased and why residents – who are already paying council tax – were being charged for ERC.

Neither Blenheims nor the Consortium have provided the Herald with further comment on this matter.

CTC is currently finalising details of taking over the town’s ERC. If draft agreements are approved, from April 6, 2018, the ERC will be paid as part of EDDC’s council tax, with any increase in the element of the council tax payable to CTC.”

http://www.cranbrookherald.com/news/cranbrook-estate-rent-charge-1-5349929

Cranbrook estate rent charges 2

(See post below also)

From a correspondent:

Wain Homes (55 properties) and Cavanna Homes (19 properties) have their own Estate Rent Charge which will remain in place but they will pay the higher CTC precept

The Town Council had indicated a willingness in principle to take on the public open space on both sites. Wain Homes remain subject to enforcement because of failure to complete the public open space and we met with them in the summer of 2017 to discuss this.

If they complete the work CTC could adopt the public open space. Hopefully local residents on the site will press Wain Homes to do this.

Cavanna have passed their public open space to a management company but undertook to have talks to have the public open space transferred back so that CTC could adopt it. In both cases the ball is in the developers’ court.”