Council prepares to take legal action against developer

Walsall Council is preparing to take legal action in the High Court against a national housing developer to protect the interests of its residents. Countryside Properties UK is in breach of a Section 106 planning agreement intended to hand control of open spaces to residents in a recently built estate of 205 new homes at Darlaston. All properties on the Wards Keep site in Heathfield Lane West in Darlaston have now been sold.

The council has written to Countryside Properties UK, part of the Vistry Group, citing 10 separate breaches of the agreement signed when planning permission was granted in 2018. Despite having signed the legal agreement, the developer failed to hand over the land and management of the open spaces and continued to build the properties in breach of planning control. This includes eight houses that do not conform with the original plans for the development. 

The developer has 28 days to comply with the legal agreement or face the council’s claim for an injunction and substantial costs. If the developer fails to comply with the council’s pre-action letter, the council will ask the High Court to grant an injunction to force Countryside Properties UK to comply with its planning obligations.

If an injunction is granted, the developer will be required to hand over ownership of the land and management of the open spaces to a management company. The developer will have to put in place an open space management plan agreed by the residents, who will be members of the management company. 

Councillor Adrian Andrew, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration at Walsall Council, said, “We have entered into significant and lengthy negotiations with the developer in an effort to try and resolve the situation by agreement. Unfortunately, we have had to prepare to take this action as the developer has consistently failed to remedy the situation and has now chosen not to co-operate with us.

“The residents of these homes were unaware until recently that they had signed up to an incorrect management company arrangement whereby the developer has ultimate control and has the ability to seek unlimited charges and can even evict occupiers for non-payment. This is unacceptable and unfair to residents. We have been left with no choice but to prepare to seek an injunction against non-compliance with the Section 106 agreement and the later planning application will no longer be progressed if the developer fails to resolve the issues. We have written to all affected properties, so residents are aware of the situation caused by the developer."

A Countryside spokesperson said:

“We are aware of this action which is disappointing given we have been in regular contact with the Council in an effort to resolve this matter, and we are now reviewing their position.

 “We are keen to work with them to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”

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