Complexities of communal areas for homeowners
Residents on a new housing development have warned of the pitfalls homeowners face when respons-ibility for maintaining communal spaces falls to them.
One resident has called on the council to adopt such spaces and be responsible for them.
Concerns have been raised by those living at Campion Place, off Newcastle Road, Asbury, whose problems have been compounded after some areas of their development were dug up so that utilities could be connected to homes at Mere View, the neighbouring site.
The communal areas of Campion Place are maintained under what is known as a residents management company; in this case called Marsh Farm Management.
It is made up of residents, three of whom volunteer to act as directors to coordinate decision-making.
Marsh Farm Management then solicit the services of a professional property management company, Premier Estates, to manage the services, arranging such things as cutting the grass in communal spaces.
Issues arose on the estate when a neighbouring development needed to be connected to the utility network, including gas and electricity, which required access through Campion Place by digging up footpaths in the communal play area.
Due to the complexity of the situation, Marsh Farm Management was forced to hire a solicitor to help residents resolve the situation.
Resident Claire Mitchell, one of the directors of Marsh Farm Management, explained the situation was “very complex” and argued that, “Joe Bloggs public should not be put in this position”.
Ms Mitchell has now written a letter to Congleton MP Fiona Bruce in which she said: “Because we have a play area, we the residents are liable, the council don’t want to adopt. Because the car park is not deemed public, again the residents are liable to replace the tarmac and sort out electricity for the lighting. The council will not adopt.”
She added that because of this arrangement; they have to pay the management company “thousands”.
When the Chronicle contacted Cheshire East Council leader Coun Sam Corcoran he stressed he could only speak for himself and not on behalf of the authority.
Coun Corcoran said: “Traditionally developers would give the council a parcel of land for open space and a play area on every new housing estate built. The developers would also pay the council a sum of money to maintain the open space for a number of years.
“More recently many developers have avoided paying the maintenance fees to councils by setting up management companies to maintain the open space. In my experience these management companies cause problems, not least because they represent a hidden cost to the new homeowners.
“In some cases the management companies are poorly run and do not maintain the open space areas properly. In other cases the management companies charge significant amounts to the homeowners. There can also be disputes over who is allowed to use these open spaces that appear to be public but are actually privately owned.”
The complex situation at Campion Place is leading to disruption for residents such as Michele Jackson.
Ms Jackson’s home has been surrounded by barriers and a deep trench that contractors have dug up for the utilities work at neighbouring Mere View.
She told the Chronicle: “It’s just a minefield. Every window I look through, I see barriers and workmen. I almost want to sell my house over it. We’ve been dealing with it since 6th December.”
Ms Jackson and Ms Mitchell claimed they have not received the necessary notice from the contractors or utility companies about digging up areas of the estate. They claimed that on one occasion they did not have the appropriate permissions to conduct certain work, which the council then put a stop to.
Mrs Mitchell said that she is “not happy” with Premier Estates’ handling of the situation, saying: “We outsource, in a way, to a ‘real’ property management company and pay them thousands for nothing.”
She said that Marsh Farm Management have asked Streetscape, a service run by Congleton Town Council, to cut the grass in the communal areas as it is cheaper than what was sourced by Premier Estates.
Mrs Mitchell’s letter to Mrs Bruce concluded: “We would be far happier paying the council directly. Give the money back to the local council and town and not these management companies who do nothing for our residents.”
The Chronicle contacted Premier Estates but they would not comment.