Friday, November 25, 2016

"Highland Council has washed its hands of major problems faced by homeowners on private housing developments in Inverness and Nairn."

The Press and Journal reports:

"A line was drawn under long-running issues at Wester Inshes in Inverness and Lochloy in Nairn yesterday after pressure on the council to take further action against developers." More here.

Liz MacDonald and Laurie Fraser spoke at this meeting - to hear what they said go to this webcast page click the drop down menu on item 4 and then scroll down until you see Liz's name. 
A report going before the committee stated the following on Lochloy:

"The solicitor acting on behalf of Lochloy Properties Ltd wrote to the Council on the 12/05/05 proposing that a sum of £100,000 be allocated for the landscaping of the common areas within Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 and placed in an interest bearing account in order to purify the relevant planning condition. The agent acting on behalf of the developer would then procure quotations in respect of the landscaping, award a contract and thereafter certify payments and arrange for drawdowns from the interest bearing account. It has been confirmed by the agent that these monies were not lodged and a landscaping contract was not put in place by them. Their understanding was that a formal contract had been set up with a landscaping company when the site was under the control of Kylauren Homes for Zones 1 and 3 and that this information would have been passed to Springfield Properties when they took over the site in 2013. However, they have no knowledge of what the current arrangements are between Springfield Properties and the landscaping contractor. Zones 2 and 4 were subsequently developed by Barratt Construction Ltd who did make appropriate arrangements for landscaping.

To further complicate matters, a number of the development companies involved are no longer trading meaning that planning enforcement action would not have been possible: 

• Lochloy Homes Ltd – company dissolved (last annual accounts 2002) 
• Lochloy Development Co Ltd – company dissolved (last accounts 2003) 
• Courtallam Developments Ltd (trading as Kylauren Homes) – in liquidation.

It is therefore unclear as to what landscaping maintenance arrangements are in place, if any, in all parts of the development.

Another factor which has contributed to the issues at Lochloy is that historically the Council accepted responsibility for the maintenance of landscaped areas within housing developments provided the developer paid an adoption fee. This fee was 18 times the annual cost of the maintenance. However, around the time of the earlier planning consents granted for the Lochloy development, this changed to a multiplier of 40 times the annual cost. As a result, a number of developers refused to pay the increased adoption fee and had to look at different arrangements. Also, the planning condition used to allow for some flexibility on the type of maintenance arrangement required, therefore not all landscaping maintenance was factored and other less robust maintenance arrangements were 16 formed. However, more recently if the maintenance regime put in place was not a factoring arrangement this would be challenged as part of the planning process. "

The Council is very much of the opinion that they have no responsibility for the common areas in question:

"A sample of property title deeds within the Lochloy development was examined by a Council solicitor to establish the maintenance obligations for common areas and who was responsible for these. The title deeds have not been written in a standard manner due to the involvement of multiple development companies and different housing sites have different rules and obligations regulating the common areas. However, it has been clearly established that the Council has no responsibility for maintenance of the common areas within the Lochloy development. This information now answers the query raised by Councillor MacDonald who was seeking clarity on this point."

There's a lot more in this report and to say the Lochloy situation is very complicated is a bit of an understatement. To read all the contents of the report go to this Council webpage, download item four and scroll down to the bottom of page 13 to commence your read.

Just as with the cuts in funding that are on their way for the Community Centre and Sports Club this item will no doubt resonate all the way to the elections in May - only six months to go.