To answer questions submitted by Citizens on the Council or its services.
The Mayor invited Mr Robinson-Green to read his Citizen’s Question as submitted:
“Will the Council commit to, take active and timely steps to investigate and implement how to end its policy of not adopting open spaces on new developments leading to estates and service charges?
Your policy currently has the ramifications that local residents must pay extortionate, unregulated, and uncapped fees to private companies for the management of their estates, not just in maintaining the open space, but to get permission to sell or erect a shed in their garden for example. In East Leake the lantern fields development, to get permission for a shed is a cost of £130 every time, roughly equivalent to some smaller feelings’ whole monthly Council Tax fee on that estate. This money lines the pockets of private shareholders far away from Rushcliffe. More than half the fees paid on our estate go on administrative and management costs, not the maintenance of open spaces.
It is perfectly possible to use existing means such as Section 106 requirements to request for example 20 years of maintenance and management fees from the developers as a commuted sum, as used to happen before you changed the policy. Stratford-on-Avon District Council are currently out with a public consultation with detailed plans on achieving this. This money stays within the local economy and supports the Council to deliver its services.
For more details on the problems you have caused residents with this please see the details at: https://www.homeownersrights.net/
and the Parliamentary briefing at: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/freeholders-estate-and-service-charges/
Councillor N Clarke phrased these unregulated charges as recognising ‘unforeseen circumstances’ in a Growth and Development Scrutiny meeting on 16th July 2020. But to my knowledge, with communications from our elected councillors and officers, absolutely nothing has been done to find a way out of these ‘unforeseen circumstances’.”
Councillor Upton thanked Mr Robinson-Green for his question and stated that he had some personal understanding of the issues raised and went on to say that the Council acknowledged the challenges around the management of public open spaces and had reviewed the issue at the Growth and Development Scrutiny Group in both 2020 and 2021. This was a national problem in a largely unregulated sector, and it had been rumoured that the new Regeneration and Levelling up Bill would include a code for the management of public open spaces by management companies, but details at this stage were unknown. Councillor Upton indicated that in recognition of the ongoing concerns and issues highlighted, the Council would make a commitment to undertake a further review of the issues highlighted, including reviewing what other councils did. Councillor Upton confirmed that the Council would undertake a comprehensive review, looking at the various management options, and bring it before the Growth and Development Scrutiny Group, which was a cross party group, later this year. Councillor Upton concluded that this issue was also the focus of Councillor Thomas’ motion later this evening and stated that he would elaborate more on this issue at that point in the meeting.