RESIDENTS are up in arms about ‘fleecehold’ charges at a housing estate near the city, according to a county councillor.

Tony Miller claims some homeowners at the Bellway estate, in Bevere, near Worcester, were unaware they had to pay an annual maintenance fee when they bought their properties.

The county councillor said residents are also concerned that there is no cap on how much this charge can be increased by each year.

He added: “Residents have to pay a separate fee for the maintenance of the open green area and play equipment [on the estate]. People are objecting to paying the fee.

“The management company has no restrictions on what they can charge. So they could add 10 per cent on each year.

“Even though they have freehold properties, they have a caveat that they have to pay this maintenance fee.

“One resident didn’t know when he bought the house that this [the fee] was going to happen.

“This is something developers are doing all over the country. They have recognised that there’s money to be made. Councils used to look after open spaces on estates.”

Cllr Miller described the maintenance bills as ‘fleecehold’ charges.

He called on Bellway to pass responsibility for the open spaces and the play area to Wychavon District Council or North Claines Parish Council.

The councillor said he floated the idea of Wychavon District Council putting a cap on the maintenance fee at a planning committee meeting, however the proposal was rebuffed.

He added that residents also asked North Claines Parish Council to take over the running of the green space and play area on the estate.

However, parish councillor Meg Farmer told the Worcester News the issue was up to Bellway and Wychavon District Council to sort out.

She added home owners’ solicitors should have advised them about the maintenance fee before they purchased their houses.

The councillor said: “I have every sympathy with the householders but unfortunately it is out of our hands.”

Marie Richards, sales director for Bellway West Midlands, said: “Bellway is proud to create communities with amenities which will benefit residents for years to come.

“Play areas, open spaces and other outdoor amenities require ongoing maintenance and it is no longer common practice for local authorities to adopt these.

“Instead, it is agreed through the planning process that these assets will be transferred to a management company to maintain going forward.

“This ensures that they are kept in the best possible condition and remain safe.

“Inevitably this requires a charge to be made to enable the management company to function. These charges are kept to a minimum and are transparent.

“Every purchaser is made fully aware of the situation before they reserve their home.”