It is true to say that when we first began, we knew what we did not want. Gradually it has become much clearer what we do want:
What we want for all new build estates:
- Those with public open space to be constructed to adoption standards, inspected and adopted by the Local Authority compulsorily.
- Those smaller developments which have no public open space to be constructed to adoption standards, independently inspected, and conveyed to the residents under common hold with a proper regulatory framework.
- A ban on estate residents having to fund the maintenance of adjacent existing green space in perpetuity as part of planning agreements. If developers wish to “donate” these services instead of providing green open space on their site, then they should pay the local authority a commuted sum for maintenance.
- Abolition of estate rent charges for residential property – retained for commercial property if necessary.
What to do about Existing Sub- standard estates?
Whilst we DO want to drive up estate quality and give future home owners a fair deal with true freehold, we DO NOT want a whole (very large) group of residents on existing estates being left on run down, expensively maintained estates with devalued properties. Whatever is done, must address the plight of current estate residents who are caught unwittingly in this trap.
The Law Commission is recommending Government look at enfranchisement (that is residents having the right to purchase the freehold of the estate and run it themselves), and whilst this sounds better than the existing arrangements, there are serious snags. The sub-standard construction leading to “un-remedied liabilities” being the biggest obstacle. We would also argue that most people want to enjoy their homes in peace and not have further, possibly onerous, responsibilities placed upon them and the risk of falling out over costs.
So we say it could be a two stage process. Enact enfranchisement, with peppercorn cost for the land and indemnities against defects. Require Local Authorities to adopt these estates at no cost to residents if they as the new land owner ask for the estate to be adopted. Local Authorities can adopt sub-standard now, but are unlikely to do so unless compelled. If this seems unfair on Local Authorities, then do remember that they agreed to the current arrangements with the developers.