Northampton estate residents slapped with Â£170 maintenance charge fear bill sets a trend
Residents of a Northampton estate landed with a Â£170 bill to look after a set of drainage ditches fear the move sets a precedent for all new housing areas.
This week bemused people living in Upton One have been holding meetings with the Land Trust, the Birmingham charity which took over the management of a set of flood defences and opens spaces around the estate on April 1.
Homes there are protected from floods by a set of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, (SUDs) which many say are effectively grass ditches for collecting rainwater and drainage.
But as the open spaces were never adopted by Northampton Borough Council, they remained under the ownership of the Homes and Communities Agency, until now.
For the last seven years residents have been able to pay an optional maintenance charge to look after the SUDs, the open spaces and a play area there.
But as of April 1, the land was transferred over to The Land Trust, which made the charge mandatory, requiring around 1,000 households to pay £170 a year to pay for the upkeep.
One of the people affected, Simon Kerrou, says residents are up in arms about the charge.
But the IT services company owner, 39, also fears new estates across the country may begin introducing similar charges.
“Basically people are really quite angry about this,” he said. “No one had any idea who the Land Trust were until they got a letter on April 18.
“The interesting thing is that somewhere along the line the council has said we are not willing to pay for the open spaces. But the community are now having to pick that up.
“Is this going to happen on all new estates?”
So far 100 people have joined a Facebook group started by Mr Kerrou about the £170 levy.
Most people in Upton One also have to pay maintenance charges to their block management companies, such as RMG, as well as council tax.
Mr Kerrou said as a result, some have voiced that they will refuse to pay the fee.
Though many feel reassured the Land Trust will look after the open spaces well, Mr Kerrou said, the consensus is that people feel they are being “double billed.”
The Land Trust says it will work with residents on the estate who miss payments.
Last month a spokeswoman said; “The Land Trust is a national land managing charity and we want to work with the community to create green spaces around their properties, which enhances their estates and their property value.”
“We don’t want to just be someone who comes in and cuts grass verges.”