Home-buyers' anger at unfinished roads

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Haydock Street

Hundreds of new homeowners are said to be living on unfinished housing developments and residents claim they are powerless when left with incomplete roads, sometimes without streetlights or pavements.

Keith Beattie moved into his new house in Haydock, Merseyside, in February 2014 but the road outside is still unfinished. He said it often floods. "If we have really bad rain the water will just pour down into the estate," he added.

He said cars have been damaged, pavements are blocked off and there are no streetlights.

"It is pitch black, you can't see anything. It is just not a safe environment," he added.

Keith and his neighbours have tried to get their developer, Bolton-based Westby Homes, to finish the work, but are still waiting: "We're powerless - what can we do as homeowners?"

Image caption,
Avondale Gardens, Haydock. There was no Section 38 Agreement signed between the developer and St Helens Council

There are concerns that some councils are failing to use powers available under highways regulations, which require builders to complete works.

Councils can ask builders to sign a Section 38 Agreement, under the Highways Act 1980, to ensure that the roads are built to an acceptable standard and will eventually be adopted. They are backed with a bond to cover the cost of the work in case it is not completed, or the builder goes out of business.

The developer on the Haydock development, Westby Homes, did not enter a Section 38 Agreement. They declined to comment on the matter.

St Helens Council told 5 live Investigates that developers should enter into these agreements if they want the council to adopt the road - but councils can't force them to.

Councils can serve a notice, called a Section 220 notice, which gives them the power to prosecute a developer if the work is not guaranteed, but the fine limit is set at £1,000.

'No progress'

"Unfortunately, the level of the fine is only a small deterrent when compared to the value of a housing site," said a St Helens Council spokesman.

Jim Codd of The Resident Adoption Action Group supports homeowners in this situation. He says he is aware of around 100 roads across England and Wales where work has been left incomplete and says there may be many more out there.

"There are problems all over the country," he told the programme.

"But as it stands there is no legislation to force developers to get new roads adopted by the council."

Even where these agreements are signed, residents have to rely on a council enforcing them when work is left unfinished.

Image caption,
Robinson Fold, Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Residents here have got a Section 38 Agreement, which means the developer has to come back and do the work
Image caption,
Robinson Fold, Barnoldswick

Residents in Robinson Fold, in Barnoldswick, have been waiting for eight years for Lancashire County Council to enforce the Section 38 Agreement on their unmade road.

The developer, Nottinghamshire-based Orchard Holdings PLC, declined to comment, but the county council said it had made "every effort" to work with the developer, but no progress had been made.

The council said it was now enforcing the Section 38 Agreement.

For the residents of Millfields in Kings Lynn, the problem was a developer which went bust before the roads, pavements and street lights were finished. There was no Section 38 in place so they raised the money themselves - all £250,000 of it.

Again, Norfolk County Council told us there was little they could have done to force the developer to enter into one of these bond agreements. Its solution was to help the residents fund their work.

Image caption,
Millfields Estate in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Residents raised £250,000 from their own money to get the work completed. It's a few weeks away from being finished

So should councils be doing more?

The Home Builders Federation said its members were keen to get their finished developments adopted by councils as soon as possible and said it was working with government to find a way to ensure local authorities can adopt roads in a timely manner.

The Local Government Association said it was up to developers to get roads to a suitable standard before being adopted by the council.

"It is important that developers strive to honour these commitments to local communities," a spokesman said. "Councils will try and do what they can to chase down developers on the behalf of households, but funding pressures will reduce their capacity to do so."

5 live Investigates is on BBC Radio 5 Live at 11:00 GMT on Sunday 25 October. Listen online or download the programme podcast.