Village Maintenance

The parish council is not currently responsible for any areas of village maintenance. As of October 2021, the management company (and its managing agent Preim Limited) is also not responsible for any areas of village maintenance, however, they do maintain common areas of two Bovis apartment blocks. The management company is being asked to take over some areas of open space, however, at this time Crest Nicholson has not completed the areas to an acceptable standard.

Therefore, as of October 2021, Crest Nicholson is responsible for most infrastructure and open spaces, including the currently open parks on Hunts Grove Drive and Pine Marten Close. Individual developers are responsible for small areas of open space and verges in their development parcels, including David Wilson Homes, Bellway Homes, and Vistry (Bovis / Lindon).

Issues Report

In response to the neglect in maintenance by Crest Nicholson over the last two years, and following many frustrating efforts by residents and councillors to get issues resolved, the parish council now produces a monthly village survey report. Residents are invited to report any issues not already covered in the report by submitting a picture and comment to the council. This can be done by emailing the clerk.

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The latest reports will be updated below:

The Future

Crest Nicholson agreed on a management company strategy with the planning department (see copy below) as part of their variation of planning conditions (Section-73 Variation) submitted to planning in 2015, approved in 2017.

It is important to note that under the original planning permission for the site, all open spaces and amenities would be handed to Stroud District Council for long-term maintenance and management as part of a Section-106 agreement. 

Phase 1 (342 Homes) was built under this permission. The Section-73 variation that introduced the management company could only be applied to future new homes constructed for Phase 2-4 of the village. There was an attempt (as you will see in the management company strategy report) to add this liability to Phase 1 homeowners, resulting in a campaign back in 2017 by the then residents association. A legal opinion (see copy below) was sought and that confirmed that the developer could not apply the new conditions retrospectively on properties completed under a different planning permission. This is why Phase 1 will still be adopted by Stroud District Council. There will be an option for the parish council to take over these responsibilities, subject to a future vote by the parish council.

Phase 2 - 4 open spaces and facilities are currently planned to be adopted when ready by the Hunts Grove Management Company. Properties on Phase 2 - 4 pay an annual service charge to fund the management company, approximately £200 per year.

Hunts Grove Extension - will be a further 750 homes to the south of Haresfield Lane. A planning application is expected Q4 2021 / Q1 2022 for these homes. The parish council intends to lobby hard to prevent a management company from being formed for this area.

Preim Limited

Hunts Grove Parish Council would like to make clear that our concerns and complaints are not in any way directed towards Preim Limited but towards the overall strategy. Preim is the managing agent appointed by Hunts Grove Management Company Ltd (HGMCL). HGMCL is currently 100% controlled by Crest Nicholson.

Preim Ltd and its representatives have been very helpful and constructive in its dealings with the parish council, and previously the residents association. Whilst there are many cases of rogue management companies and agents across the country, Preim is not one of them.  Councillors have conducted a great deal of research into management companies and in the course of that work have reviewed other sites managed by Preim around the country. In every case, we have found them to be a respected service provider that manages sites to a very high standard.

A Matter of Fairness

The current councillors of your parish council believe that the management strategy for Hunts Grove put forward by Crest Nicholson has failed and is falling apart. Management companies are a topic highly controversial across the country for a couple of reasons.

  1. There are no protections for the fee-payer, no means to challenge the fee amount or services provided. Payment of the fees is secured by an estate rent charge on the deeds of the property. The legislation that covers these arrangements goes back to ancient feudal law and provides the management company the right to prevent the sale of a homeowner's property, a right of entry to the property, and ultimately can force a sale to recoup fees from any dispute. For owners that believe they are buying a freehold property, this can come as a huge surprise and one that conveyancers and solicitors rarely warn buyers about. This national controversy is known as "fleecehold";
  2. All property owners pay council tax. Established areas of villages and towns are maintained by the parish council or district/borough council. Many people, quite rightly, believe that it is unfair that some taxpayers have open spaces maintenance included in their council tax, whilst others don't and must pay a separate fee;

The introduction of management companies on new build developments is a response to a national shift in policy by local authorities that are hesitant to take on more liabilities in an environment of reducing council income and the need to balance the books. It could also be argued that the open spaces and facilities provided on new build developments are enhanced compared to already established residential areas, therefore the maintenance should be the residents' responsibility.

Stroud District Council does not have a specific written policy on adoption vs management companies. It looks at the needs of the individual development and the management strategy is led by the developer as part of their planning application.

Another factor at Hunts Grove is the fear of the sale of parts of open spaces by the local authority. The original landowner at Hunts Grove, Colethrop Farm Ltd, wanted to ensure that open spaces remain open spaces forever, therefore this was also a factor in the arrangements put in place. The management strategy approved in 2017 for Phase 2 - 4 brought about the management company, but also that the open spaces and community facilities would be leased from the landowner for 125 years, rather than the freehold being handed over to the community / local authority.

Many residents are upset and angry with the service charges, especially as some have been paying more than three years and the management company isn't even responsible for anything on site yet. Some have refused to pay the bills or are encouraging others not to pay. Hunts Grove Parish Council would never condone such action and would advise residents to pay the bills, or seek legal assistance on the matter. The penalties for non-payment, as explained in (1) above, can be quite severe.

Moving Forward

Councillors believe the only fair means of managing the open spaces and facilities are for all Hunts Grove residents to be treated equally, whether they are on Phase 1, Phase 2 - 4, or the future 750 homes on Hunts Grove Extension.

This parish council was formed, in part, to provide that option. The campaign to form the council and subsequent community governance review received overwhelming support, more than any other consultation in Stroud District Council history. 

The management company issue at Hunts Grove is not unique. There are many cases around the country where a management company was initially formed, however, once the residents started moving in, they demanded change. Cranbrook in Devon is one such example. A new build village, a new town council established and takes over the management company and releases all residents from the estate rent charge.

We want that option for Hunts Grove. Over 50% of the current service charge is "admin". As the parish council is a non-profit volunteer-led organisation, we feel sure the costs can be at least reduced by half, even with employing two grounds-persons and the equipment and facility costs that would be necessary. The funding would be via council tax and essentially the parish precept would be increased to cover the necessary costs whilst the service charges would immediately stop.

Any changes to the parish council responsibilities would likely be put to residents via a parish referendum. If there is a mandate for the change, it would be voted on at full council.

The parish council is actively trying to engage all stakeholders to hold a face-to-face meeting to discuss these matters.