Somerset council accused of 'immorality' over new-build maintenance

Chris Cooke Image copyright Chris Cooke
Image caption Chris Cooke believes the council should do more to adopt open spaces once a housing development is complete

A council has been branded "immoral" for refusing to take on maintenance work on housing developments.

Somerset residents say this means they are being charged twice, through council tax and maintenance fees.

South Somerset District Council's new landscaping firm Elleston is now bidding to maintain open spaces on private developments in the region.

The council itself can take on the job of working on open spaces, but it is not a legal requirement.

When a housing estate is built, the local authority has the option of adopting the communal areas of the development, but if it does not, the responsibility is then taken on by the developer, who can sub-contract the work to another company.

Maintenance work includes work such as cutting grass, and keeping playgrounds and pavements in a good state.

Image copyright Chris Cooke
Image caption Agusta Park residents are charged about £180 a year for maintenance of open spaces

The district council said it cannot always make adoption agreements and there is not enough funding to adopt all amenities.

Chris Cooke lives in Agusta Park in Yeovil and currently pays £145 a month in council tax fees. Residents of that development are due to be charged about £180 a year for the maintenance of open spaces.

Mr Cooke said developers Persimmon Homes, which will be managing the maintenance contract, told him in an email the council would not adopt the land.

Image caption The council said any profit its maintenance company makes will be used to maintain public services

He said: "If they don't adopt, firstly they don't have to pay anything to look after it, and secondly they can collect full council tax for doing nothing.

"On top of that they can run a profitable business off the back of it looking after the land they refused to adopt in the first place."

"I think it's morally wrong."

The council's spokesman John Clark said it is not always possible to negotiate the transfer of land through Section 106 agreements, and there is insufficient funding to adopt all amenities across the region.

He said: "The more land the council takes on, the higher the burden on all taxpayers and other services as resources are finite.

"No-one is being charged twice and there is no collusion - we strongly reject that allegation.

"Elleston has actually been created by SSDC in response to requests from residents as well as housing developers, as there is a demand for high quality maintenance work on private developments and estate land."

Mr Clark added any profit the company makes will be used to maintain services which "benefit the whole community and mitigate the significant loss of funding from central government".

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