The Battle of Baggeridge Village

man pointing to chimney

One man’s story of taking on the builders and preventing them wrongly passing on a liability. It’s a long story, but then it is never made simple for home buyers to tackle these injustices. Well worth a read.

In June 2015 my wife and I bought a new house on a David Wilson Homes development known as Baggeridge Village. It is aptly named as it contains just over 200 properties on a broadly triangular plot surrounded by agricultural land and a popular public access country park – Baggeridge Park. There is one access road into and out of the estate, about 500 metres long, from the nearest main road, A463. Although we are within a few miles of Dudley and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, our location is just over the border into South Staffordshire.

The development is technically on a brownfield site, as some years ago it was a brickworks, the Baggeridge Brick Company.  In preparation for the property development, all of the old brickworks buildings were demolished, with the exception of a large free standing chimney, height approx. 50 metres.  The chimney is not listed, but it is considered by the local council (South Staffordshire) to be a ‘historic local landmark’. One of the conditions for granting planning approval is that the developers should ensure that the chimney remains within the development, and is maintained in a safe condition. Another condition is that the access road through Baggeridge Village (BV) onwards into Baggeridge Park should be accessible to the general public. There is also a pre-existing entrance to Baggeridge park about 1 mile away, which is still open.

Baggeridge Village is a mixed development, mainly houses varying from 2 – 6 bedrooms, some apartments, commercial craft units, and a care home.  Construction mainly took place between 2015 to 2018, but there is still some ongoing at the present time.  Approximately 70% of the properties are owned by individual residents, the rest are mainly owned by housing associations and rented out to tenants.

BV property buyers were advised that the BV estate would be privately managed, and that a half yearly service charge would be levied to cover the costs of maintaining the estate roads, infrastructure, street lighting, adjacent grassed areas and woodland. David Wilson Homes appointed an estate management company, Ground Solutions Ltd. to undertake or arrange for the necessary maintenance work, and to invoice the residents.

When the first estate management charge invoices arrived in 2017 we noticed the inclusion of (relatively) small amounts for ‘chimney inspection’.  Over the subsequent years further amounts for ‘chimney repairs’ appeared. However, in the most recent invoice, from 2023, the total estimate for chimney repairs was £44,000, which was more than 50% of the total overall cost estimate for the whole estate.  The estate managers, Ground Solutions, to their credit, held periodic meetings with residents in a local hall to update us on maintenance activities and to invite comments and questions. Right from the start, there were questions asked by the residents about these chimney costs, but no satisfactory answers given. During one such meeting we were reminded that, at some point in the future representatives of the residents would be invited to become directors of the ‘Baggeridge Village Management Company’ (BVMC), which had been registered by David Wilson Homes. These new directors would then take over responsibility for managing the estate, and directing the work of Ground Solutions Ltd.

I volunteered for this.

There were no other volunteers at that time so I took it upon myself to undertake research into the BVMC, to determine the nature of assets and obligations that might fall within our control. I started by emailing the local Ground Solutions manager. Although he was very helpful, and we had a few face to face meetings, he did not have all of the answers that I sought. I moved on to David Wilson Homes’ lawyers, who allowed me access to a number of legal documents relating to the development, and the negotiations over planning permission with South Staffs Council which I found very useful. In those documents there was a plan of the site which showed that the location of the chimney, next to the road leading out of the housing area and onward to the park, is clearly outside of the stated ‘managed land’ area. Significantly, according to discussions I had with other residents, none of the their conveyancing solicitors had identified the chimney as a potential problem for us. I finally made contact with directors of Barratt David Wilson (BDW, the holding company for David Wilson Homes), and challenged them to justify charging us for chimney costs. They referred me to vague and imprecise sections of the conveyancing contracts that implied that ‘assets’ could be transferred to the BVMC at their discretion.

I decided it was time to call on village residents to request their support in fighting the developers. I circulated a request on the Village Whatsapp for residents to meet me on the village green to discuss the Chimney issue. This was a pivotal meeting. There were many offers of support, and lots of useful advice from residents with valuable knowledge and experience. At that meeting we agreed that:

  1. we would deduct the chimney costs from our invoices and only pay the net amount.
  2. We would prepare a petition, to raise awareness amongst the rest of the residents who had not attended the meeting
  3. We would try to obtain support for our cause through our local MP and/or local media.
  4. We would contact David Wilson Homes, stating that we do not believe that we are responsible for the costs of the chimney, and intend to reduce our payments of service charges to remove the chimney cost element.

We prepared the petition, which has been signed by more than 100 residents so far, demanding that they remove the chimney costs from our service charges.  Unfortunately we were not able to persuade the social landlord organisations to join us, as they did not want to ‘rock the boat’ and in any case whatever estate management charges were invoiced to them would simply be passed on to their tenants.

We eventually managed to arrange a meeting with two directors of BDW, and our local MP, Gavin Williamson, also joined us, and he was very supportive. The BDW directors immediately agreed to remove the £44,000 chimney repair charges from the current invoices, for which we gave thanks. However, they would not agree to take responsibility for future chimney costs, and these would still fall to us residents. So the meeting ended without agreement on that.

Some months later, out of the blue, we received a message form the local estate managers, Ground Solution, that the transfer of ownership of Baggeridge Village Management Company to us residents was imminent, and we should apply to become directors without delay. I promptly replied that that there were still matters outstanding and that no-one would volunteer to be a director if they did not know what they were signing up for. I also sent a message to the directors of BDW requesting that they call a general meeting of BVMC to which all residents of Baggeridge Village, who would become members of this company, would be invited. I requested that, at this meeting, documents should be presented giving full details of the assets and liabilities/obligations to be transferred with the company.

A few weeks later I received a request to contact Paul Smith, one of the BDW directors. We had a conversation, subsequently confirmed by email. I quote:

Further to our recent conversation I confirm that BDW will retain the chimney ownership and acknowledge the ambiguity in the conveyancing’


During the period of our dispute, there were many suggestions from fellow residents that we needed to appoint our own lawyers to fight our case. I held out against this, on the basis that their costs would probably outweigh any possible benefit we might gain, and it would be difficult to persuade all of the residents to make contributions to the costs.

However I imagine that BDW probably had their own lawyers spending time going through the documentation with a fine tooth comb before eventually realising the weakness of their position.

The battle is not quite over. I have requested that BDW should authorise the estate managers to issue us all credit notes for the amounts we have already paid towards the chimney, to be offset against future invoices. I can’t see how they can refuse this.

Finally, I must give credit to Baggeridge village householders A M and J T, without whose advice and support this would have been a much more challenging exercise.

Andy Wright


Self Management Struggles

It’s not easy for residents to take over the management of their estate maintenance, even when the company set up allows it. As this example shows, you need determination and a willingness to dig into the specific set up for your development. The pay off is greater control of costs, better quality work and value for money. However self management does not remove the liability for maintenance of what is often sub standard infrastructure. Many other estates, although not this one it seems, include public open spaces.

Hornet’s goal is for these areas to be adopted, but many residents on existing privately managed estates want to self manage to get better value for money. They can then choose to run things themselves or on larger estates appoint their own managing agent, answerable to them. In this instance the residents chose to run things themselves. We thank you for sharing your experiences, which we hope will help others who wish to self manage…..