How did Fernwood come to be managed by FirstPort?
The reason for our village being managed is complicated. Traditionally the local council would take on services once building had finished. Around the time phase one was finished local councils around the U.K. realised there was no law forcing them to do this and building companies had to come up with an alternative. (There is still the law that we have to pay full council tax). This situation arose here and Barretts/DWH brought in private management.
Can we change the way we are managed?
Over the 15 years Fernwood Parish Council have campaigned to return Fernwood to local council control. MyFernwood have remained neutral in the NSDC or FirstPort discussions. We speak to residents who are happy to pay the extra for a well kept village as well as others who feel the cost is too high. A referendum has been mentioned. The volunteers at MyFernwood do not have the expertise, knowledge or time to organise one. We welcome anyone to MyFernwood who feels they can but we insist they must remain neutral while the referendham is in process.
If NSDC was to manage central Fernwood there are many questions that will need to be answered. For example who will pay for our deeds to be changed.
Why should we pay twice for services? (i.e. FirstPort and Council Tax)
MyFernwood have asked NSDC for a reduction in Council Tax. Their response was to indicate that the amount was set by law so they cannot legally give a reduction. Also a reduction could open a can of worms. For example someone living in a very rural area without access to facilities could also ask for a reduction.
Why is the area of woodland behind the nursery school so badly looked after?
This area is owned and managed by a company called Derrys. They are the same people who own Balderton Hall. FirstPort did ask if they could maintain this area but Derry’s decided they would do it themselves. Last thing I heard was that Derry’s had offered that area to the Parish Council (for a price). I don’t know where that is now.
The car park in front of the shops is not maintained by FirstPort either. This is managed by the shops. Also there is a small patch of land near the shops owned and managed by the Parish Council.
I’ve Just heard that our fees from FirstPort will be increased again without explanation. How can this be?
Any fee increase/decrease is documented in the FirstPort ‘Your property online’. This year, 2020, take a look in the documents section, June, you will see this years anticipated charge explained in full. The increase in the reserve fund for equipment has been because of the anticipated increase in costs. Also there is a risk of Brexit causing an increase in costs and these have been taken into consideration. Also the government has changed the way property companies pay VAT on some staff costs. I have looked into this and sadly the the HMRC have gone grabbing and there is no other option. And VAT cannot be reclaimed by estate management companies. Of course this is an anticipated budget and if costs come under budget we will get a credit and our next service charge will be reduced.
The children’s play area is old and outdated. can this be updated?
The play area is owned by Barretts/DWH and managed by FirstPort. If a new play area was built our fees with FirstPort would increase in order to cover costs of new items.
Many residents are against the increases. Also the play area is accesible to other members of the public i.e. Fernwood residents who do not pay the service charge.
MyFernwood have suggested to the Parish Council that they work with Barretts/DWH to pay for the playground out of our Parish Tax paid through our Council tax. (This would mean it was paid for by the whole of the parish not just residents who pay the FirstPort fee) FirstPort could install and maintain the equipment. The Parish insist they cannot finance public items through private companies/land. This we understand is a policy not a legal point.
I’m a freeholder why do I have to pay for maintenance?
On the deed to your property there is a restriction or covenant. These are far more common than you may expect. They are rules that you must abide by. For instance it may stop you running a business or parking a lorry on your property. The restriction you have here at Fernwood is to ensure you pay your maintenance charge and that if you move house or change your deed you are up to date with your maintenance payment. Her majesty’s Land Registry (HMLR) will insist you have a certificate indicating this from FirstPort before they will proceed with any changes. The restriction does not mean they have any title to your property.
MyFernwood feel that the fee asked for by FirstPort for the certificate and the time taken to complete this are too much and take too long. We have continually campaigned to get this reduced and for a service fitting the fee. Most of this information can be obtained from your FirstPort account page. Some unscrupulous solicitors will ask for more information when not necessary to ‘up’ their fees.
All FirstPort do is cut the grass. Is this all we pay for?
Fernwood covers an area of approximately 180 acres with many different sizes of greensward. The FirstPort invoice is split into ‘schedules’ according to what property you live in. Schedule 1 contains the charge for your management fee (paid according to the size of your property) and the maintenance of the public open spaces and facilities such as the tennis courts and playground.
John Jeys, FirstPort employee has listed some of the items included in schedule 1 with the management fee.
- Mow the grass areas weekly in the season, using a mulch mower
- Hand mow areas large mower cannot access
- Take green waste to recycling centre
- Strim around fences and trees, along walls and edges of paths fortnightly
- Cut, shape ,weed and edge planted boarders
- Empty waste bins twice weekly
- Litter pick site twice a week
- Clean play park and tennis courts
- Spray weed and moss killer as required though out the year
- Clear and maintain small trees around the estate and in the woodlands
- Health check trees through the estate and woodland and maintain as appropriate.
- Clear leaves in autumn
- Maintain fences
- Fail mow the meadows twice a year
- Clear balancing pond twice a year
- Clear ditch along Hollowdyke lane (This has been held up because of the building work and heavy plant along Hollowdyke)
- Carry out weekly health and safety checks on play park and exercise equipment
- Maintain site equipment
- Collect fuel weekly
- Maintain planting boxes
- Mark up football pitch
- Carry out turf repairs
- Watering plants and trees in summer
This should all be done to a high standard. Trees cut down in process should be replaced.
Any questions around these works can be directed to John Jeys by emailing email@example.com