A Growing List of Issues and Residents Complaints
HGRA has put a significant effort in to investigating the status of adoption, responsibilities for verges and lighting etc following many complaints from residents that their requests to developers are being ignored and issues persist. This is not a new story as one of our first tasks back in 2017 was to try and get all the faulty street lights fixed on Phase 1. After constant discussions and meetings with the developers, we are still seeking the same today!
Read parts two and three to understand more regarding the street lighting and verges maintenance.
If The Developer Won’t Fix The Issues, Can The Local Authority Take Over?
Crest Nicholson, and to a lesser extent David Wilson Homes, have failed to maintain the verges and street lighting to an acceptable standard. HGRA’s own survey catalogued the extent of the issue at the end of June, and it’s considerable. This is why we have escalated this to the local authority now to try and get a resolution as unfortunately there is nothing to compel the developers to resolve the issues raised, other than their motivation for the area to look nice to sell more homes. Adoption of roads, verges and lights is the usual handover of responsibility from the developer to the local authority. Parts of Phase 1 are now more than ten years old and remain unadopted!
Usually the developer is quite keen to get roads adopted as that means the maintenance responsibility is taken over by the local authority. In addition, the local authority retains access to funds as an insurance policy (known as a Section 38 agreement) in case the developer walks away or goes bankrupt. For balance, we also have to point out that some local authorities delay adoption for as long as possible in order to save maintenance costs.
How to Get Adopted
It is a complex process, however here are some key points (this is our understanding, not an exhaustive list and not from the council!):
- The streets / roads must be verified as complying with the approved highways plans;
- All final finishes and materials must be in good condition with no damages;
- The drainage and sewerage system must have been adopted (in Hunts Grove case, by Severn Trent Water);
- All lighting must be fully operational and to the latest County standard;
- All verges and other adoptable areas landscaping must be in good condition according to the plans
Fix Now or Fix Later
Whilst any roads / streets remain unadopted, the developer is left with a decision to make. If a street light is faulty or verges, kerbs etc get damaged, do I pay and fix it today knowing that I may need to do it again prior to adoption or do I leave everything until adoption and just pay once. Based on our experience pushing this issue with the developers for several years now, it seems obvious what is going on.
In 2018 HGRA Did a Freedom of Information Request
It’s clear that residents are much more likely to get maintenance issues resolved with the County Council after adoption rather than the developers at Hunts Grove. Once adopted, the council will have a maintenance programme in place and if anything is not resolved it can be pursued through elected councillors. So, we started looking for the status of adoption and timelines.
HGRA wanted to understand which roads were adopted by Gloucestershire County Council and what insurance bonds (Section 38 agreements) were in place. Gloucestershire County Council responded (see full PDF below) that Marconi Drive was adopted on 18th October 2016 and Hunts Grove Drive, Oak View and Shorn Brook Close were adopted on 24th May 2017. They also confirmed that Section 38 bond money amounted to £539,416 at that date.
2020, And HGRA Approaches The County Council Again
Frustrated by the continued issues and residents complaints, HGRA / Parish Council sought the help of our County Councillor, Cllr Stephen Davies to establish the situation with adoption at the County Council. This effort identified the people responsible at the County Council and they have been very helpful in updating us.
Unfortunately things took a backward step as we found out that Hunts Grove Drive wasn’t actually adopted in 2017 as the FOI request had stated. This led to another discovery that Oak View and Shorn Brook Close were technically adopted, but not operationally. This is due to a rule that no road can be finally adopted if it is isolated from the county road network. Without Hunts Grove Drive, both these other roads were isolated.
The Current Status
It’s now coming up to the end of July and we are now better informed than we were. It appears that all of Phase 1 roads were close to adoption in February. Then Covid-19 hit, the lockdown, and many staff put on furlough.
The adoption process involves many site visits, so essentially could not move forward in this time. The good news (we hope) is that now lockdown has eased, the process can be expedited now. HGRA is continuing liaising with the County Council team and will also bring forward as an action item with the new Hunts Grove Parish Council.
What about Phase 2 & 3? Well, judging by Phase 1, it will be at least 2028! We are hopeful it will be much earlier than this and of course now we understand the process and who to call. Bearing in mind the points mentioned above (How to Get Adopted), we can make it an ongoing action item to pursue.