Experts helping developers with open space obligations
With recent business activity showing developers preparing new budgets and reassessing outstanding adoptions, Greenbelt has been busy working with its existing and new developer clients to assess completed development portfolios. As part of this process, one of the largest UK-wide companies to own and manage greenbelt land formed as part of new housing developments uses its Development Facilitation Fee model to provide clients with clear exit strategies.
Greenbelt Group’s Business Development Director Gareth Davies, pictured right, comments: “The majority of developers are reporting an increased level of activity in the market, with the success of the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme well documented. This has provided some additional cash fluidity in allocating funds to deal with outstanding adoptions, including un-adopted open space.
“However, developers across the UK are still spending considerable amounts of money maintaining open space on their legacy developments that, in some cases, have been completed for several years. As well as on-going annual costs, there is also a duty of care as landowner. With challenging land replacement programmes and new outlet opening timelines, developers need assistance in assessing their liabilities.”
These liabilities can include these key features:
Equipped Play Areas
Although there is no specific legislation on play safety, the key legislation where equipped play areas are open to the public includes: 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 and European standard BS EN1176 & 77.
The European standard BS EN1176 & 77 recommends a three-tier regime. Contained within the guidance are the following key recommendations: If the equipment is not safe, access by the public should be prevented; The equipment must be inspected and maintained by implementing routine visual inspections (look and see), operational inspections (poke and prod) and annual main inspection (detailed reporting).
Compliance represents good practice in the event of any accident claim (data published by Natural England shows an estimated 80 million visits made every year to a children’s playground).
Any landowner 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 and also to trespassers. This is an increasingly topical issue in light of recent cases pursued in respect of branches that had fallen from trees and killed or seriously injured people.
Potential bases of the developer’s liability include civil liability, occupier’s liability and 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 advice and recommendations;
- Detailed records should be kept of work due and undertaken so that people can follow and review the steps being taken;
- Tree Strategies and Management Plans are sensible documents to have and progress should be recorded against their objectives.
With Natural England’s published data confirmingon average 318 million visits are made a year to a woodland/forest, developers must demonstrate that they have fulfilled their obligations.
How Greenbelt Can Help
Greenbelt is expertly qualified to help its developer clients transfer their obligations on legacy open space. It can provide professional advice and a clear exit strategy, while a client carries out its “Estates Completions cost to complete” exercise.
A well-managed interim maintenance and open space transfer programme includes a full development appraisal by Greenbelt’s business development team. They will:
- Appraise a client’s portfolio of legacy developments, assess the key features and provide an interim contract routine maintenance proposal, which will also ensure compliance with duty of care liabilities, and utilise its 800 UK-wide development portfolio economies of scale.
- Provide maintenance regimes that suit all parties, including planning obligations and 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 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.
- Structure a phased access and transfer programme of any multi-development package for cash flow and budgeting purposes, while interim contract maintenance is being carried out. This controls the quality of routine maintenance on each development providing a seamless handover.
Developers interested in finding out more about how Greenbelt can help them can contact Greenbelt’s Business Development Team now on 08450 940 940.