By Lewis Smith
RESIDENTS of new housing estates in Bridgend have spoken out about paying extra for maintenance services this month, as they are charged fees known as ‘fleeceholds’ worth hundreds of pounds every year.
The fees that can often apply to residents living on private estates across the UK, are charged by private estate management companies to cover the cost of maintenance work that would otherwise be carried out by the local authority.
Services can include a range of works such as grass cutting and hedge cutting, as well as road repairs and fixing street lights, however many living on the site’s say it is part of a system that seems unfair.
Councillor Steven Easterbrook raised the issue to members at a full council meeting in Bridgend county borough this month, after he said he was approached by a number of residents who were feeling frustrated by paying for the work, which they say in many cases isn’t being done.
He said: “I was made aware of this issue after to listening to complaints from a number of local residents on newer build estates, and I wanted to bring the question forward to the council to try and get some answers for them.
“It doesn’t seem fair that as a resident you would pay your council tax for services, then in many cases double up and pay a private company for the services again, so I can see why there are frustrations.
“Obviously certain development companies might build the homes then decide they don’t want the estates adopted by the council and opt to charge for the services themselves, but I think we have to look at that more now and question if it’s right, and what could be done about it in the future.”
Daryl Llewellyn, 35, lives on the Longacre housing estate in Bridgend and says despite paying council tax, his maintenance fees can cost him more than £250 extra each year.
He said: “We pay our council tax here, but we also pay maintenance fees on top of that which costs us around £130 twice a year. It just seems like ongoing revenue for housing companies even after you have bought the house.
“It’s a lot of money to pay each year when you add it up, and while we might not mind if we were getting something out of it, we really feel there is hardly any maintenance being done for the money we pay.
“We’ve had delays with street lighting being replaced, as well as damage to the roads and waste areas which can often take months to be repaired, and if the work’s not being done we’re basically just paying that money for a parking space. ”
Sarah Smith lives nearby and says she also feels there are issues with the fees. She said: “I pay around £120 every six months for maintenance fees and for my car parking space to be leased. It’s annoying because we’re paying the extra costs for these services that others across the borough wouldn’t have to pay.
“I wouldn’t mind if they did things with the money but looking at the condition of the roads and the lighting here it seems as though we paying more but receiving less.”
A spokesperson for the property management company said: “We are sorry to hear of the concerns of some of our residents at Longacre. We are currently progressing a small number of maintenance issues in relation to areas of the development that we manage. We are working with contractors to resolve these as soon as possible, and we will keep residents updated.”
Speaking in response to Cllr Easterbrook’s question on maintenance fees, the leader of Bridgend Council, Huw David, said that while both the Welsh and UK governments were looking at the situation, the council’s powers were limited at this time.
He said: “We are limited by legislation about what we can and cannot impose. Ultimately this will require national legislation for this practice to be controlled, as it is not within our powers to limit that.”
However, Councillor Amanda Williams believes more can be done at the planning stage to prevent these kind of charges being incurred by residents in the first place.
She said: “I think there is something we can do and that is to tackle this issue at the planning stage when developers apply to build. We see a number of sites being built across the borough, and while some have the management fees others don’t, so it could be prevented.
“I do think it is unfair, especially for residents in places like Coity for example, who could be paying for council tax, estate management fees, as well as a community council precept, all to cover the same jobs.”
Daryl Llewelyn of Bridgend