BISHOP FOX – MAINTENANCE OF COMMUNAL AREAS
We receive regular enquiries about the maintenance arrangements for the communal areas on the Bishop Fox Estate, such as the parking areas, grassed areas and the shrubs and trees.
In common with a number of other newly built housing estates, the developers who built the Bishop Fox estate made no long-term arrangements or funding for the ongoing general management of the estate. The problem is exacerbated in the case of Bishop Fox by the fact that the original purchaser of the land actually lost money when land values fell, and the land was subsequently sold off in parcels to various developers at a loss, so the development cannot be traced to a single source.
The brief history is that a Trust was set up by the developers with very limited funds to manage the Bishop Fox recreational areas, but the funds were insufficient, and eventually ran out. When concerned residents raised concerns about the lack of maintenance Molesey Residents Association (MRA) councillors Mike Axton & Stuart Selleck led efforts in pressing for a long-term solution with Elmbridge Council and Surrey County Council (SCC). As a stopgap, MRA provided some funds to allow grass cutting to continue on a short term basis. MRA County Councillor Ernest Mallett initially persuaded SCC to make some grants to ensure grass-cutting etc could be continued. This enabled maintenance to continue for a further 3 years, but it was not a long-term solution.
Eventually MRA Councillors were able to persuaded SCC to donate £60,000 to EBC as a commuted sum to enable EBC to provide grass cutting services of the recreational areas for the long-term. This system is still in operation, but there is still a risk that SCC could withdraw the funds at some point, particularly as the original Trust has now sold the recreational land to a private owner.
These arrangements do not, however, cover the estate’s trees and shrubbery, or any maintenance of the car parking areas or private highway verges. EBC made some repairs to some fencing and gates on a voluntary basis, and also removed some broken recreational equipment. SCC has also, on occasion, voluntarily cut back some of the pavement growth of vegetation and removed some trees which had become dangerous. The problem is that neither Council was under any legal obligation to carry out this work.
Recently, MRA County Councillor Ernest Mallett has negotiated an agreement with Elmbridge StreetSmart, a body funded by both EBC and SCC, to deal with the overgrowth on the central part of the Bishop Fox Way pavement. StreetSmart has, however, specifically refused his request to deal with overhanging growth on the pavements at both entrances to the estate. They have insisted, and reiterated, that this job is the responsibility of the occupiers of the houses from which the overgrowth stems.
We should explain that it is very unusual for any Council to fund work on non-Council owned land. The grass-cutting and other work which the Councils have carried out has only happened at Bishop Fox because of the strong representation of Molesey Residents Association councillors over a number of years.
So the overall problem remains. Because no arrangements were ever made to charge Bishop Fox householders a maintenance fee to establish funding for maintenance of the communal areas, the only real recourse is for Bishop Fox residents to get together and form a residents association to fund and deal with the local maintenance of surfaces, shrubs and trees.
Published on Tuesday, August 14th, 2018
in General Interest