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Parc Celyn residents have to continue to pay service charge after adoption plea rejected

RESIDENTS of a private housing estate have been told a council can’t take responsibility for its open spaces and a children’s play area. 

As a result homeowners will have to continue paying a “roof tax” – or service charge – of around £140 annually to a management company for the upkeep of the areas which they also claim are blighted by anti-social behaviour including the use of drink and drugs. 

The Parc Celyn estate, on Greenmeadow Way, in St Dials, Cwmbran was developed after building firm Taylor Wimpey was given permission for 350 homes between 2015 and 2018. The council’s planning committee approved the appointment, by the developer, of management firm Remus to maintain the areas in May 2021. 

Last October residents petitioned Torfaen Borough Council to ask it formally adopt the open spaces and recreation area and complained the management fee meant, with council tax, they were “paying twice” towards their up keep. 

Had the council agreed adoption it would have become responsible for maintenance of the open spaces and play area and costs would be covered from the public purse. 

But at a full meeting of Torfaen council the borough’s environment director Rachel Jowitt said the authority would have to reject the petition “with regret” as the developers are unwilling to hand them over. 

Ms Jowitt said the firm said to do so it would have to renegotiate sale contracts with all homeowners on the estate and the contract it has with the management firm. 
She also said a request by homeowner James Miller, who organised the petition, that if the council couldn’t take responsibility residents receive a council tax reduction also couldn’t be agreed. Ms Jowitt said: “That’s just not possible and council tax isn’t broken down into component areas for each household.” 

The council’s director said it had approached the developers and the council’s view is that adoption would be “preferrable” as it would give it control and the area could be subject to reduced grass cutting as part of its efforts to improve biodiversity. 
She said: “While we sympathise with residents our hands are tied and we can’t enforce adoption”. 

A report to the council explained that had adoption been proposed at the outset of the development a section 106 legal agreement would have been drawn up, with the viability of the development taken into account when determining the developer’s contribution, but it is becoming common practice across the UK for firms to set up management companies instead. 

The Welsh Government has previously called for evidence on the impact of the practice and is in talks with the UK Government over potential new England and Wales legislation to give freeholders the same rights as leaseholders to challenge management fees and even force a change of companies. 

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On claims of anti-social behaviour Ms Jowett said the community safety team had contacted residents living closest to the affected area as an intial assessment but only one survey response had been received and police had received no further complaints. 

St Dials member Elizabeth Haynes said she accepted the council’s position but said residents are still reporting anti-social behaviour to the police. 

The Independent Group councillor said residents may be able to set up their own management group but she will look forward to any proposals from the Welsh Government after it gathered evidence on such private arrangements in early 2020. 
She said: “I really look forward to seeing what the Welsh Government intend to do about this unfairness, it is an unfairness”. 

The council accepted it could not adopt the space and therefore had to reject the petition but cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Mandy Owen, will write to the Welsh Government asking for an update on its work related to the private management of public open space.

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