Open Space Management - OMS

The Open Space Managenment charge (OMS) is part of the agreement entered into between house buyers and the developer for the maintenance of open spaces through the newer parts of Great Denham. For anyone buying a property in Great Denham this will have been included as part of the sale/purchase documents. Your solicitor should be able to provide you with this information.

It is paid annually via an invoice, which comes from Bedford Borough Council. Bedford Borough assumed responsibility for collecting this charge from the developer DWH, as part of a legal transfer of what is called the "amenity space".

Currently the annual charge levied by Bedford Borough Council is £120.

OMS does not include the Country Park, which is part of a separate agreement (S106). 

For a map of the amenity space covered by the charge, and further information visit Bedford Borough Council's website:

https://www.bedford.gov.uk/leisure_and_culture/parks_and_open_spaces/great_denham__west_kempston.aspx

 

Great Denham Parish Council has been working on behalf of residents to ensure that all monies collected by Bedford Borough Council as part of OMS are spent appropriately, that there is transparency around the charge and how it is spent for the benefits of Great Denham residents and that the quality of the work done by Council staff in Great Denham is of a good standard. The Parish Council has had a number of meetings since April 2017 with BBC and has reported on these both via this website and at Parish Council meetings. A summary of these meetings is below.

September 2018 (28/08/18) - At this meeting the Parish Council confirmed that, after further correspondence with the Borough Council, the position of the Borough Council has not changed. The Parish Council are not able to escalate this further to the Local Government Ombudsman; however any resident(s) may do so privately. A statement has been drafted that residents may wish to use, together with the Disussion Document prepared by the Parish COUncil (Feb 2018) and the BBC report following its formal complaint process.

 June 2018 - Following the Parish Council meeting on 4th June the Parish Council has written to the Mayor / Chief Executive to follow up on the concerns raised by residents and to ask specifically for comment on issues such as the legal status of their inclusion of the two play areas within the Country Park within the Open Space Area rather than the area covered by the developer funded Commuted Sum.  

 We welcome the Mayor and Chief Executive’s offer of a walk around and have asked for a further meeting with them to explore options to separate the Open Space Area in Great Denham from the Land West of Kempston, as this will help to provide greater transparency and accountability on spend and ensure residents are getting good value for money.

 We will continue to press for this, and intend to keep this issue high on the Agenda and will discuss again at our next Parish Council meeting at 7.30pm on Monday 2nd July 2018

May 2018 - Please find attached here the Investigation Report sent to the Parish Council by Bedford Borough Council. The Parish Council are to continue to challenge the findings within the Bedford Borough Council Investigation Report on behalf of residents with regard to the fairness and transparency of the charge to local residents.  As a consequence the Mayor and Chief Executive of Bedford Borough Council have been invited to the next Parish Council meeting on Monday 4th June 2018 to hear from residents and to explain the rationale for the charge and the value for money it affords to those paying the £120 Annual Charge for Open Space Management. 

 

Meeting January 2018: (reported at February Parish Council meeting) MS gave update on current situation following meeting with BBC on 29/1/18. Parish Council remain currently unhappy with the level of transparency over spend to date by BBC and have requested a further meeting with the Mayor and Chief Executive BBC to progress. This meeting is currently scheduled for 19/2/18

Meeting October 2017: (reported at November Parish Council meeting)  MS gave update from meeting held with BBC on 16/10. BBC (Paul Pace/Lee Phanco) provided some financial detail but Great Denham and West of Kempston are still combined. We are still awaiting information as follows:

  • A breakdown of invoices received and paid for which relate to Great Denham
  • A breakdown of the dates that staff have been deployed in Great Denham
  • The outcome of the tree audit so that DWH can be held to account and replacements are not funded from the Open Space Maintenance Charge funds
  • A more cost effective proposal for play area inspection that that presented to us (Part Time Play Inspector 2.5 days per week across both Great Denham and West of Kempston)

 Staff on ground appear to be doing a much better job but figures seen to date indicate a surplus will be generated; we would like to see a future payment holiday if this happens.

Meeting July 2017: (reported at July Parish Council meeting) MS reported on the recent 2 hour meeting that had taken place with Paul Pace and Lee Phanco BBC Officers. In this meeting the Borough Council set out the budget forecast for next 5 years, which GDPC were not happy with, especially the employment model.

The Borough provided a breakdown of payments made to date of £120 charge – currently c. 75% of people have paid this. MS reminded attendees that the £120 is in the transfer deeds of all new properties and payment of this is a legal responsibility. The Parish Council focus is on ensuring that the monies are generating value for money and holding the Borough Council to account for ensuring work is carried out to a suitable standard.

Following the meeting the Council have undertaken to come back with further breakdown of many of the budget lines, in particular how the number of employees will be utilised (6 full time people is now represented as 6 Full Time Equivalents (FTE)) and how they will be managed across the Kempston and Great Denham sites. MS also reported that he has been out with the team leader for 2 hours recently, visiting all areas and has stressed the Borough’s responsibility for maintenance and grass cutting to him. 

MS also reported on a meeting which had taken place with the developer and Bedford Borough Council. At this meeting it was agreed that the Borough Council will now take over responsibility for the verges and DWH will pay them instead of using TCL. This should also help to deliver greater consistency.

MS also reported that there is clearly still confusion over what the £120 charge is for given recent comments on Residents Association Facebook. He asked for support to work together to clarify the details and address the issue of misunderstanding. It is recognised that this is exacerbated as a result of the number of property management companies in operation in Great Denham.

  • £120 fee is for maintenance of green spaces, most play areas and green verges.
  • It does not cover the Country Park – this is separate and part of the S106 agreement.
  • The Play Hub in the Country Park remains the responsibility of the developer DWH until the Country Park is handed over.

 The article in Beds on Sunday (2/7/17) referred to a sum of £331.2k – this is the final sum only once all houses have been completed (2760 properties by 2020/21).

Meeting June 2017: On Wednesday 14 June 2017 the Parish Council met with senior managers within Bedford Borough Council and David Wilson Homes to discuss concerns relating to the grass cutting on both the new and old areas of Great Denham.  It has been agreed, pending formal adoption of the roads and verges by Bedford Borough Council, that they will (following some immediate remedial work) maintain all areas of the Parish.  This should bring greater consistency across all areas of Open Space (subject to the £120 charge levied from this financial year) and all highway verges within the older and newer areas of Great Denham.  The Parish Council will meet, on a regular basis, with the team leader within Bedford Borough Council responsible for Great Denham to ensure that standards are maintained throughout the Village.

Meeting May 2017: On the evening of 27 April 2017 members of the Parish Council met with both Lee Phanco (Assistant Chief Finance Officer) and Paul Pace (Head of Environment) of Bedford Borough Council and our Borough Councillor, Mark Smith, this to discuss the recent charge for the Management of Open Space (MOS) in Great Denham and the recent invoice to each household (in the ‘new’ development) for £120.This requirement is set out (variously depending on builder) in our purchase documentation as a Covenant to maintain parkland and open-space.  The demand has led to some considerable confusion and concern, not least in terms of what the £120 is actually going to cover in terms of maintenance.  

The collective revenue receipt from both Great Denham and West of Kempston will eventually amount to some £264,000 (a charge of £120 against some 2200 households) when all are completed.  What became apparent is that, as yet, Bedford Borough Council have not taken possession of any parcels of land from the developers (David Wilson Homes – DWH). That said, the attached document does show the parcels of Open Space that will be subject of transfer next week.  These areas, shown bordered in red, will be maintained utilising the monies raised through the MOS invoices.  These monies will also be deployed to maintain the various play areas; litter/ dog-bin emptying; landscape management; shrub pruning, future planting, trees, hedgerows, wooden and metal fencing, benches, litter picking, dredging of the water bodies (surface water systems/ balancing lakes), ditch/ brook maintenance and tarmacadam and gravel surfaces etc. within the open space areas.

Bedford Borough Council has not yet taken over the responsibility to maintain the numerous grass verges on the main thoroughfares of the development (e.g. Greenkeepers Road; Saxon Way; King Alfred Way) nor the myriad roads and cul-de-sacs throughout the development.  These remain the responsibility of the developer and simply have not been subject to recent maintenance.  No date has been set for this transfer and until such time it will remain the responsibility of DWH to maintain them (through their contract with TCL).  Paul Pace is in discussion with DWH / TCL and assurances have been given that these works (to both the areas shown in the attached document) and the grass verges will be re-commenced in the next few days.  Paul will monitor this closely on our behalf.  When transferred to Bedford Borough Council, the Highways Department will assume responsibility for maintenance (and this maintenance will be funded through the Council Tax we pay).

The Bedford Borough Council officers have agreed to put in place a robust regime for future maintenance.  During the grass-cutting season (broadly March through to October) we should expect 10-12 visits to all grassed areas (depending on weather) and during / outside of this season the routine maintenance of shrubs; trees; hedgerows etc.  Litter / Dog Bins will be emptied twice weekly.       

The Parish Council have sought, and received, assurances in terms of effective engagement in the management of open space in Great Denham and indeed the level of scrutiny and openness in terms of the ring-fenced funding and spend against budget.  Initially Bedford Borough Council are to employ an additional 6 members of staff to dedicate to the MOS in Great Denham / West of Kempston. Investment in new machinery was reported and this will be deployed locally.  An effective reserve will be necessary to cover equipment / repair to play parks, tennis courts etc.  To aid the scrutiny and accountability process it has been agreed that the Bedford Borough Council officers will meet quarterly with the Parish Council (first meeting in June 2017) where a summary report will be provided to lay bare both financial data on revenue / spend as well as an update on the maintenance programme alluded to above.  This Report will be supplemented by necessary statistical data and the content can be entered in to the public domain (through our Parish Council meetings).

This was a productive meeting and officers of the Council expressed a real commitment to providing an effective service to the residents of Great Denham.  They were entirely open to the effective oversight and scrutiny at local level.  As a Parish Council we will work closely with Bedford Borough Council to ensure the commitments made are realised.