Calthorpe Residents’ Society: Review of the First 40 Years
By David Henson, former Committee Member, Founding Member and Calthorpe Estate resident
2011 was the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Calthorpe Residents’ Society which came into being in February 1971 at a crowded meeting held at the Birmingham Medical Institute, Edgbaston. Its purpose as laid down in the constitution is to safeguard and improve the interests of the residents who live on the Calthorpe Estate in Edgbaston.
The Society is proud of its many achievements which include:
- Representing residents in the High Court on the creation of The Calthorpe Estate Scheme of Management (which applies to freeholders resident on the Calthorpe Estate, Edgbaston, see below) made under the Leasehold Reform Act. Substantial amendments were achieved including the removal of a clause empowering Calthorpe Estates (the Estates) to acquire back leasehold property when required by the Estates for redevelopment. In acknowledgement of the strength of our case, 80% of the legal costs of the Society were awarded by the Court to the Society.
- The Societyâ€™s plea to the City to designate a conservation area within Edgbaston resulted in a public exhibition and consultation, following which a major portion of the Calthorpe Estate was designated as a conservation area in 1978 and twice extended. The Edgbaston Conservation Area has the distinction of being the largest urban conservation area within the United Kingdom.
- In 1980 we joined with the City and the Victorian Society at a public enquiry into the proposed demolition of Chad Valley, a Grade 2 listed Victorian building in Westbourne Road, and its replacement by 30 flats. The building was sympathetically restored and has been in use since that time.
- By lobbying parliament, including taking a deputation Westminster to see the Housing Minister, the law was eventually changed extending the original narrow rateable value limit, thus allowing more properties to be enfranchised (i.e. become freehold).
- The Society contributed to the making of a plaque for placing on Fairlight, 8 Ampton Road, to commemorate the first game of lawn tennis played in the garden there in 1865 between Harry Gem, a local solicitor and his friend Augurio Perera, a Spanish businessman. The plaque was unveiled in June 1982 by the President of the Lawn Tennis Association. The event attracted national interest with articles in The Birmingham Post, The Times and The Daily Mail.
The Calthorpe Estate Scheme of Management
The Management Scheme was approved with amendments at the end of July 1974 since when lessees on the Calthorpe Estate, subject to limitations of the Leasehold Reform Act, have been able to acquire the freehold of their homes. A copy of the Management Scheme can be seen on our website and we recommend a copy should be kept with your title documents. Further copies can be obtained from Lambert Smith Hampton, who administer the Management Scheme for the Calthorpe Estates.
Once the freehold has been acquired, the rights and obligations of the new freeholder (homeowner) and their successors (future buyers) are set out in the Management Scheme. Every freeholder should be aware of his rights and obligations as set out which replace, but are similar to many clauses in the former leases. Only Calthorpe Estates are empowered to enforce (or not) the provisions of the scheme, such as take action to compel a neighbour to repair a boundary for which he is responsible.
In early 2010 the Estates published the Policy Guidance Notes on the management Scheme of which all residents should have a copy:(available here) . It is helpful to the extent that, for example, the criteria for Calthorpe Estates granting or withholding consent to planning and development proposals are set out. Remember if you live on the Calthorpe Estate you need their permission as well as that of the planning authorities for certain works, as outlined in these documents.
Clause 22 of the Scheme gives a right of access to neighbouring land, subject to giving reasonable notice to the neighbour and to the making good of any damage caused by this access. This provision is important where buildings or walls lie close to a boundary and occasional access could be expected for repairs and maintenance. Please note that the Calthorpe Residents’ Society committee disagrees with the Policy Guidance Notes, where they indicate that, after a residentâ€™s request the Estates will not necessarily implement this clause because they understand the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 gives such a right. This statement is not correct as this Act merely gives a right, where none exists, to apply for an â€œaccess orderâ€ to the Court. Despite repeated representations to the Estates to remove the reference to Clause 22 from the Guidance Notes, they have declined to do so, as yet. The Calthorpe Residents’ Society will continue to seek clarification on this point.
Under the Scheme all freeholders are liable to pay an annual fee to the Calthorpe Estates for their administration of the Scheme. The amount payable is linked to the Retail Price Index as at October each year, the current due for the year ended 31 December 2011 is Â£40.98. Non-payment of this Management Charge within 21 days of the date due entitles Calthorpe Estates to register a “charge” against a property at the Land Registry. The removal of the “charge” can be expensive. The Estates have the powers of a mortgagee, so as a last resort could even sell your home to realise the charge. The Calthorpe Residents’ Society has monitored the charge each year and has worked with the Calthorpe Estates to ensure that it is calculated correctly.
What do Calthorpe Estates do with the Annual Scheme of Management charge?
This is a frequent and reasonable question. The Estates have been asked by the Society on many occasions to give some indication of how the management charge, (which has been collected every year from 31st December 1976) is spent, but so far the Estate has not done so. We consider it not unreasonable to ask that accounts should be produced as the money is intended to preserve the amenity of the Calthorpe Estate, Edgbaston, through implementation of the Scheme of Management. It is hoped and presumed that it is ring-fenced for this purpose. The Calthorpe Residents’ Society considers it may require Parliament to legislate on a requirement for accounts to be produced as a pre-requisite of demanding payment.
Enforcement of the Scheme of Management
As the law stands and as the Scheme of Management is worded, only the Calthorpe Estates can enforce the provisions of the Scheme. An attempt was made by a resident of the Belgravia Estate in London to amend a similar Management Scheme to require the landlord to compel compliance with their Scheme. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal was sympathetic, but decided that as the law now stands, landlords cannot be compelled to accept a new clause to a Scheme without their agreement. Here again it may need Parliamentary intervention to introduce appropriate legislation.
Now the majority of homes on the Estate are freehold, should not the Estates be under an obligation to take reasonable steps to enforce the Scheme and take action for the common good, for example, against illicit business use and gross disrepair of property, including neglect of gardens? The members and committee of the Calthorpe Residents’ Society has been an invaluable source of local knowledge and expertise in monitoring the Scheme, its application and implementation over the past 40years. With residents’ continued support the Society will aim to encourage the Calthorpe Estate to cherish, maintain and improve our lovely area of Edgbaston in consultation with those who live here.