I hope residents of the Great Park are safe and healthy at this challenging time.
I thought it would be useful to provide an update to residents on some of the work I am undertaking on behalf of Newcastle Great Park residents.
Despite the immediate need to address the current public health crisis and the difficulties it is causing, my team and I continue to work on the broader issues affecting our communities.
As ever, please do let me know if you have any comments on any of these issues – or if there are ever any concerns that you would like me to take up on your behalf, either locally or in Parliament.
- It was good to hear that as of March the final area of Cell C now has ‘full fibre to the premises’, meaning all areas of Newcastle Great Park now have access to fibre broadband.
- I’m very pleased to have played a part in this campaign, including by coordinating and chairing a meeting between Openreach and the Great Park Consortium back in 2018, writing to the Government’s Digital Minister and Openreach, and raising the matter with senior Treasury officials at Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee. I know others have worked very hard to get to this point, especially local resident Sean Hood.
- Please see the latest update from the Consortium which details how to secure a fibre broadband package.
Estate Management Fees
- I know the lack of transparency, inconsistency in the timing of the demands and fluctuating fees remains a key concern for residents. This is something I regularly raise with both Government Ministers and the Great Park Consortium.
- Last year I co-sponsored a Bill in Parliament that would cap estate maintenance fees, introduce measures to ensure shared facilities are maintained to an adequate standard, and make provision for the self-management of communal areas by resident groups: https://www.facebook.com/CatMcKinnell/photos/a.1325503457465926/2437422062940721/?type=3&theater. I was pleased to join forces with Cathy Priestley and the Homeowners Rights Network on this campaign but unfortunately the Bill was not supported by the then Government. I will continue to support its aims in this new Parliament.
- I have contacted the Competition and Markets Authority, the Government’s competition watchdog, to ask them to widen their current inquiry into leasehold properties to include estate management fees. I recently received a response that said the regulator would be working with Government to: “ensure that homebuyers have better information about the annual costs of owning a home earlier in the sales process, and to see whether access to justice can be simplified for homeowners who think they may have paid too much in service charges or permission fees.” I will be following this up shortly for an update on progress and to press for tougher action.
- A Newcastle University student on a placement in my constituency office is working on a piece of research examining the law around estate management fees and investigating avenues for reform, looking at Newcastle Great Park as a case study. This will help inform my own work on this issue and perhaps provide proposals for Government Ministers to scrutinise.
- For many years I have made representations on behalf of residents about the lack of progress on Newcastle Great Park town centre. I was pleased to open the pharmacy back in August 2018 having worked hard to support them in being able to do so, but it is completely unacceptable that not one additional shop has opened since then, despite repeated promises to the contrary.
- I pressed both Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey on this issue in recent meetings in October and February, respectively. I was informed that there has been some progress on letting units and that an announcement on the supermarket is due very shortly. I will be closely monitoring these deadlines and will continue to hold the Consortium to account for the promises they have made to residents.
- I also recently met with senior council officers to discuss various housing issues, including Newcastle Great Park and issues around town centre development and the adoption of the road network. A planning application for the supermarket is yet to be received by the planning Department and unadopted roads have not yet met the criteria for the local authority to adopt them. I am in the process of arranging a meeting between the developer and the council so that these issues can be addressed.
- I have raised concerns with Newcastle City Council about the lack of progress on the proposed new middle/secondary school at Newcastle Great Park for some time now.
- As you will be aware, there are currently insufficient existing middle school places to accommodate the growth in the pupil population. Progress has been slow and was further delayed by a judicial review brought by Save Newcastle Wildlife. The legal challenge was dismissed in February and the process will now resume but the school will now not open in September 2020 as originally planned – and may even be delayed until 2022.
- Newcastle City Council has a statutory duty to ensure there are enough school places for children in the city and I therefore raised this at my recent meeting with the authority. I understand that plans for the development of the Primary School are underway, however the secondary school provision requires further negotiation with the Department for Education, and I will be writing to them to pursue this.