Now’s the time for developers to plan for the adoption of open space on legacy developments

The new season's maintenance programmes are now underway across Greenbelts portfolio of 800 developments. March has seen one of the coldest months on record but signs of spring are now on the horizon and developments landscape will soon be growing and need a maintenance regime that adds value to the local environment.

The majority of developers are reporting an increased level of activity in the market and the recently announced 2013 Budget Housing Measures should help stimulate the market further with "Help to Buy". This will undoubtedly provide some additional cash fluidity in allocating funds to deal with outstanding adoptions including un-adopted open space.

Developers across the UK are still spending considerable amounts of money maintaining open space on their legacy developments that have been completed in some cases for several years. As well as the on-going annual costs there is also a duty of care as land owner, which unfortunately is not always a developer's top priority especially where there are equipped play areas and mature trees.

Equipped Play Areas

There is no specific legislation on play safety. However, the key legislation where equipped play areas are open to the public is; 

  • Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Act 1992
  • Occupiers Liability Act 1957 and 1984
  • Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • European standard BS EN1176 & 77

BS EN1176 & 77 recommends a three tier regime. Contained within the guidance are the following key recommendations;

  • That if the equipment is not safe, access by the public should be prevented
  • The equipment must be inspected and maintained by implementing the following;
    • Routine visual inspections (look and see)
    • Operational inspections (poke and prod)
    • Annual main inspection (detailed reporting)

Natural England recently published data on visits to the natural environment. During the period January – December 2012, 80million visits were made to a children's playground.

Compliance represents good practice in the event of an accident claim. All of Greenbelts equipped play areas are managed as per BS EN1176 & 77 recommendations. Can every developer say the same?

Mature Trees

Any land owner who is responsible for mature trees has a general duty of care to those who pass near them to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety. This duty is owed to visitors but also to trespassers.

This is an increasingly topical issue in light of the recent cases pursued against the National Trust (Bowen and Others v The National Trust 2011 Felbrigg Hall case where one schoolboy died and three others were seriously injured) and Surrey County Council (Micklewright v Surrey County Council 2011 where a branch fell from a tree killing a man on the public highway) in respect of branches that had fallen from trees and killed and seriously injured people.

Potential bases of the developer's liability include;

Civil liability

Occupier's liability

Criminal liability

To demonstrate duty of care and as part of the discharge of Common Law and Statutory duties:

  • Trees need regular checks, risk assessments and consequent application of measures that are reasonable and practicable;
  • Steps should be taken to comply with the advice and recommendations;
  • Detailed records should be kept of work due and undertaken so that people can follow and review the steps being taken; and
  • Tree Strategies and Management Plans are sensible documents to have and progress should be recorded against their objectives.

In this way developers are better placed to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their obligations.

Whilst the chance of being killed by a falling tree or part of a tree is about one in ten million, when it does happen, it is such a traumatic event that if you can demonstrate you have done everything you reasonably and prudently could, it may be of some comfort to the bereaved to know it really was an unavoidable freak of nature.

Again in Natural England's recently published data during the period January – December 2012, 318million visits were made to a woodland/forest.

Greenbelt complies with is statutory duties where its developments have mature trees, can all developers say the same?

So how can Greenbelt help with transferring the developer's obligations on legacy open space?

Well we have the answer... we can provide you with professional advice and a clear exit strategy whilst you carry out your "cost to complete" exercise which includes;
A well-managed interim maintenance and open space transfer programme which includes a full development appraisal by our business development team who will;

  • Appraise your portfolio of legacy developments, assess the key features and provide an interim contract routine maintenance proposal which will also ensure you comply with your duty of care liabilities and utilise our UK wide economies of scale.
  • Provide maintenance regimes that suit all parties including planning obligations, equipped play area and mature tree inspections
  • Provide a single point of contact for all administrative costs linked to purchase orders and processing of invoices
  • Provide a Development Facilitation Fee (Commuted sum) for each development and/or multi-development portfolio
  • Appraise and price each development for any remedial works, once agreed the works are undertaken prior to transfer of the open space
  • We can structure a phased access and transfer programme of any multi-development package for cash flow and budgeting purposes, whilst interim contract maintenance is being carried out. This controls the quality of routine maintenance on each development providing a seamless handover.

Interested? Then make it easy and contact our Business Development Team on 08450 940 940