HOUSEHOLDERS from new estates have put their concerns about costly site maintenance fees to the shadow housing minister.

Residents from new-build estates in the Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland area– as in other parts of the country– have spoken out about their experiences of buying freehold homes which come with an annual bill for site maintenance.

The fees are meant to pay for work on public spaces such as grass cutting but many people have said work they expected to be covered has cost extra.

Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman said the fees are uncapped and unregulated, meaning they jump up each year with no transparency on work taking place. She has branded them 'fleecehold' management fees and raised constituents' concerns in Parliament.

Last week, Ms Goodman hosted a visit from the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey MP during which he attended a public meeting on the issue at Whitworth Park Academy, Spennymoor.

A resident of Moorcroft, Spennymoor, said: “On our estate we pay £148 a year to our management company Greenbelt. They are named in our deeds so we can’t change them. They are supposed to look after the public spaces, but when anything needs doing they charge us extra. If there is dog waste in the litter bins, that’s extra. If play equipment gets damaged, that’s extra. We have no idea what the annual fee is spent on and we don’t have the legal rights to challenge it.”

Mr Healey said a Labour Government would look to tackle the issue with legislation to improve freehold homeowners' rights and greater involvement by councils which could fully adopt public spaces rather than them being sold by developers to private management companies. He said: “Helen has done more than anyone in Parliament to lead the way on this issue. There are some obvious answers, but they require a Government with a will to make changes, to stand up to the big developers, and to fix these problems.”

During the visit, they also visited Coundon Grange to see work by Durham County Council to bring dilapidated empty homes back into use.