We reported back on July 2nd that we had been trying to get the grass verges and public open spaces cut and maintained, and in fact that process started some months ago as we received many residents complaints that requests to Crest were being ignored.
Long Story Short
We are now at the end of July and many of the affected areas have received a cut following our intervention.
There are several exceptions on both Phase 1 and Phase 2 that we are escalating via the local authorities to encourage the developers to do their job. There appear to be no legal measures to enforce this though.
As a last resort, we may need to call for volunteers to come forward to look after maintenance or ask the new Parish Council to consider funding a landscaper for a couple of days to sort out the immediate issues. (Update 28th July – residents have cut one of the areas!)
First things first, we had to establish who was responsible. This is partly connected to the other issues we are reporting on this month with roads and lighting, so read our post this week on adoption.
So, Who is Responsible?
- If roads are adopted, the grass verges adjacent are the responsibility of Gloucestershire County Council. Our research with the County Council established that no roads at Hunts Grove are operationally adopted (see that post for further explanation);
- No areas of verges or public open spaces have been transferred to the Hunts Grove Management Company or its agent PREIM Limited, therefore they are not responsible currently;
- No areas of verges or public open spaces are adopted by Stroud District Council or Parish Council, therefore they are not responsible;
- Crest Strategic Projects are responsible for distributor roads (i.e. Hunts Grove Drive / Harrier Way), the Acorn Park and Phase 1 Play Park and a contract is in place with the contractor Four Seasons Landscape Ltd for ongoing maintenance;
- Individual developers are then responsible for their development areas (completed or not), so that is Crest Nicholson South West, David Wilson Homes, Bellway Homes, Bovis Homes (HGRA is currently unaware how the developers contract their maintenance responsibilities);
- In areas where there are pockets of Housing Association homes, the housing association are often responsible for maintaining small patches of land. Housing associations include Sovereign Living, Sanctuary Homes and Gloucester City Homes;
Why is This Area Maintained But Not That Area?
Hopefully this is now clear after you have read the section above!
Impact of Coronavirus
It’s fair to say that the maintenance issues did get much worse since March and the onset of Coronavirus. The virus and lockdown resulted in many employees at developers and contractors being furloughed for several months. Since the end of June, this situation has eased and should now not be a major factor preventing maintenance on site.
HGRA Escalated To Parish and County Council
HGRA / Parish Councillors raised the issue of lack of maintenance and residents complaints at the June parish council meeting in order to seek help in finding out who is responsible and in relation to developers if there is any means for the local authority to intervene and compel the developers to meet their responsibilities. Our County Councillor, Cllr Stephen Davies, offered to forward our concerns to the council to see what assistance could be provided.
The reality of the situation is that until handover of highways and verges to the County Council, Hunts Grove is considered a private estate on private land. It is the developers responsibility to keep up the maintenance, however there is no legal means of enforcing that prior to adoption. The main factor in ensuring maintenance is more from a marketing perspective for the developers – i.e. they need to sell houses, therefore the development should look attractive to potential buyers.
Having said that, the County Council team that works with developers were quick to assist in response to the intervention by our County Councillor. We are currently working with three representatives that head up the relevant departments, from Highways Management, Community & Infrastructure and Highways Legal Agreements. More about this in our post about adoptions.
- 16th June – made contact with the Council rep responsible for verges;
- 17th June – Council rep visited site himself to see the issues;
- 17th June – Council emailed their contact at Crest Nicholson to confirm the issues and ask that they are resolved as soon as possible;
- 20th June – Residents noticed landscapers on-site working on Acorn Park and Hunts Grove Drive (we think this was a coincidence as it was one contractor coming back from furlough);
- 23rd June – Follow-up call with the Council. They scheduled an on-site meeting with Crest Nicholson for 25th June;
- 25th June – County Council meet with Crest Nicholson on-site at Hunts Grove. Crest Nicholson advise that further work will be done commencing 4th July by their contractors.
- 4th July – More landscape contractors noticed on site, taking care of open spaces around Phase 2
Current Status of Maintenance
At the time of writing, 27th July, it is clear that many areas are now looking better, if not perfect. Exceptions remain though on some verges in Phase 2 Crest, the play park on Pine Marten Drive and parts of Phase 1 Crest. The pictures below are an example of these areas:
Damaged Trees & Shrubs
A couple of residents have noted that shrubs have been damaged or have not responded well to being surrounded by weeds etc. Some trees are also damaged or missing around the development due to a variety of issues. We can reassure residents that any damages must be taken care of prior to the developer handing over the area to either the local authority (in the case of Phase 1), or management company (in the case of Phase 2, 3 & 4).
Landscaping is a matter that is controlled and approved in the planning process, therefore plans exist for every park, verge and green noting every shrub and tree planted. As part of the handover protocol, the local authority or management company will strictly enforce that the areas handed over match the plans and that all aspects are in tip-top condition. HGRA will maintain a watching brief on this matter and we are sure the steering group of the management company will do the same.
HGRA asks residents to take pictures of verges and open spaces that require attention. Email them to us at [email protected] noting the location. You can also add pictures via the comments section of the Facebook version of this post. This will help us get things sorted.
We need to establish who is responsible for the remaining areas or why the known developers have abandoned them. HGRA has contacted the new Hunts Grove Parish Council such that this issue is discussed at the inaugural council meeting.