Soil Testing

In response to some concerns raised recently in relation to contaminated soil on the development, Bellway have provided the following statement (which has also been given to the customer care team):

An undertaking was agreed with both the EHO and the NHBC at the start of this project to have a specialist consultant monitoring and signing off the suitability of the materials used on this site. The regime of monitoring was, that materials delivered to site for use in the gardens and open space were to be tested on site and validated to be fit for purpose. The validation process is stringent and needs to be in place to enable occupations and sign off.

We have incurred one issue on site within this process, where this was found to have not met the agreed criteria and as a result these areas were removed and replaced with appropriate controlled materials. We are confident that the monitoring process is working and all gardens have been checked.

The Technical Director from Bellway has stated that the above was an isolated incident, picked up as a result of the strict testing regime. The replacement soil subsequently passed all of the relevant testing criteria, as has every property on the site.

Estates Update

Dear Residents,

As ever there has been a lot of activity ongoing in the background and you should begin to see some significant changes occurring over the coming weeks in relation to estate management. A number of meetings have taken place with the onsite project manager over the last couple of weeks and a detailed plan of action is being finalised which will cover all of the issues we have raised.

I am due to meet with the project manager again on Tuesday 2nd October to confirm that there are actions assigned to every issue and updates will be posted to the website on a regular basis to keep residents up to date as to when key work will progress and in which areas.

For example there is work due to begin on Monday 1st October to extend the wooden knee rails adjacent to Plot 67 either side of the new pedestrian walkway that links to the Bridle Path, remove excess concrete around knee rail posts (to allow grass to grow) and to fix a number of other knee rail issues such as poor installation.

Community Group representatives will also be meeting Bellway executives again on Tuesday 9th October by way of follow up to a meeting held in August. This will be to flag any outstanding concerns and to agree further action where necessary.

It has taken a number of months to reach this stage however I am sure residents will agree it has been time well spent. Watch this space for updates and do continue logging concerns as they are all noted and taken into consideration as part of the work that is being undertaken. If you have any other general feedback or comments, do not hesitate to get in contact.

Andrew Wright (Chair)
Channels Residents Community Group

Estates Update

Bellway have now identified an on-site project manager to ensure that all remedial works are progressed. The project manager will also work with DJC Property Management to ensure remedial works are undertaken for the areas of the development that have already been handed over.

The Estates Committee have collated a detailed list (with photographic evidence) of all issues across the development and this has been further developed into a project plan which we will ask Bellway to populate, making clear exactly what action is to be taken for each issue. We will also use the project plan to monitor progress over the coming weeks.

An initial meeting was held with the project manager last week and we will meet again by the end of September to ensure the project plan is going to deliver against expectations.

Essex Highways have also undertaken an initial visit and have notified Bellway of a number of areas in relation to roads that require attention and we will also cross reference this to ensure everything is covered by the project plan.

Whilst residents may not yet have seen significant changes across the development, there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes and once the project plan has been agreed, we should be able to advise as to when issues will be resolved.

Of course if you come across an issue that you do not believe has been raised before, make sure you log it and if it’s not on the list, we will vary the project plan accordingly.

Andrew Wright
Chair Channels Residents Community Group

Estates Update

There has been continued progress since the last update in relation to the estates position. We are now in regular contact with Bellway senior executives in addition to DJC Property Management and Committee Members are working hard to collate a detailed snagging/issues list which we intend to use to monitor progress over the coming weeks.

Bellway have provided us with an initial Schedule of Works however the Committee has not accepted this as a sufficiently detailed plan hence the need to produce our own snagging/issues list as a basis to work from.

Residents can be assured that there is a continued commitment by the Community Group to holding Bellway to account for delivering an estate we can be proud of. It does take time and Committee members have invested many hours to date so please be patient!

Residents should have now received a letter through their doors from Bellway explaining the works planned at the corner of Fairway Drive which are due to start on 6th September. This usual access route will be closed with an alternative route available as per the image below:

A number of residents have asked whether the alternative access route could remain open after the works have been completed. Bellway do not think that this is possible as the junction to junction distance is too close and as such this will not be acceptable to either the highways or the planning team.

Andrew Wright
Chair Channels Residents Community Group

Estates Update

Committee members met with Bellway executives on Wednesday 15th August to discuss the Estates Report which was submitted to Richard Burrows (Essex Divisional Managing Director) in July. The session lasted well over 3 hours however it was time well spent as it was a chance to meet all Bellway representatives responsible for Phase 1/2 and to fully convey residents’ concerns.

The Estates Report is a robust document and the time spent preparing it and collating supporting evidence has paid off as Bellway did not dispute anything contained in the report.

There was an acknowledgement that there have been failings by Bellway, DJC Property Management and indeed by the Channels (Chelmsford) Management Company Ltd which has been set up to ensure that the estate is appropriately looked after. Nevertheless it was clear that Bellway genuinely want to resolve the issues and ultimately deliver a development that is line with the original vision for the area.

It is important to note that the Estates Report was also reviewed by the council and a number of planning breaches have been identified. Bellway received a letter from the planning officer on 7th August stipulating a 2 week deadline for receipt of a response and this must include a timeline for remedial action to be undertaken. The planning officer has additionally set a deadline for remedial action to be completed in a number of areas.

Whilst there was an element of discussion as to the root cause of the issues, the more important goal was to focus on our required outcome i.e. that all identified issues will be made good at no cost to residents. Bellway has given that undertaking and will provide a full schedule of works (requested no later than Friday 24th August) so that residents can be kept informed of the improvements that will be made and when.

The schedule of works due on 24th August should therefore cover remedial action timelines for all issues, irrespective of whether these have been highlighted by our report and/or the council planning officer. Committee members will collate a detailed list of every issue across the development (also no later than 24th August) and this will be cross-referenced to the Bellway schedule of works to ensure nothing is missed.

The remedial work will be taken forwards jointly by both Bellway & DJC Property Management depending on which areas of land have been formally handed over however the Committee will closely monitor all progress to ensure the end result is in line with expectations.

This is an excellent result and I would like to thank all of the Committee members for their hard work in reaching this stage. The website will be updated regularly so that residents are aware of progress however do not hesitate to contact the Committee via the website if you have any queries.

If you believe there to be new issues that need to be flagged, then please do continue to log concerns.

Andrew Wright
Chair Channels Residents Community Group

Future Channels Development

Residents will be aware that there has been some confusion in relation to Planning Notices that have been posted around the Channels site recently. The Notices linked to a submission by the landowners to amend S106 planning conditions which required the continued provision of an 18 hole golf course adjacent to the site.

In the absence of robust information as to what this would mean for residents, I met with Ptarmigan Land (who work with the landowners to develop and sell land) in an attempt to clarify the position. The information below is high level however it does make clear the position as conveyed to the Community Group.

The diagram below shows three key land areas. The area within the red boundary represents the current Channels development and includes all phases of building that were originally planned. The darker blue boundary represents land that was identified as part of the original master plan and is where the 18 hole golf course was to be re-provided. The lighter blue areas belong to the landowner and part of this land (Little Channels) is where new golfing & leisure facilities are proposed to be situated.

It is important to note that part of the original master plan was always to create large areas of landscaped parkland within the original development boundary. The image below shows the areas that will be developed and the Community Group Committee does have access to detailed landscaping drawings which make clear the extensive work that will be undertaken for the benefit of residents.

It is also important to note that the land to the North & North East of the original development boundary has long been identified for potential future housing as part of the North Chelmsford Area Action Plan. Whilst original planning conditions (approved over 6 years ago) required the continued provision of an 18 hole golf course, it seems that it was always likely the land would at some stage be required for housing development.

Taking this into account, and given the fact that the landowners have provided comprehensive information to support the fact that provision of an 18 hole golf course is no longer a viable business model, it would appear that future development to the North & North East is inevitable. The landowners have additionally provided detailed plans of how they wish to develop Little Channels into a different type of golfing & leisure complex.

As it stands if the S106 planning modification is granted, it does potentially pave the way for some housing development although to some extent this was always identified for the general area anyway. There is additional road infrastructure planned as part of any future development (including the North East Bypass) and it is probably the impact of this infrastructure not happening which should be the biggest concern for residents.

The proposed parkland is currently part of the remaining golf course. If the S016 modification is not granted, the parkland will still become available however this may take far longer. If the S106 modification is granted, work can begin much sooner and residents will have access to large areas of managed parkland, walking & cycling trails all of which should start to be accessible from Spring 2019.

Although the window for commenting on the planning submission has closed, all of the documents including the covering statement and proposals for new facilities at Little Channels, can be found here.

Andrew Wright
Chair, Channels Residents Community Group

Ecology & Landscaping

Representatives of the Community Group Committee met with DJC Property Management and the site-wide ecologist on 4th July 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to gain more information about the role of the ecologist and to better understand what can and cannot be done with the communal areas of managed land.

It is important to note that a Landscape and Nature Conservation Management Plan is in place which is designed to preserve the communal areas in and around the Channels development, to maintain wildlife and to protect the great crested newts by providing the appropriate hibernacula. A copy of this plan has been requested.

Taking into account the habitat which was previously in place in the area which the Channels development now occupies, there was never any intention to provide “manicured” communal areas and The Landscape and Nature Conservation Management Plan reflects this. Whilst comparisons might be made to Beaulieu landscaping, the Channels development was never intended to replicate this and as such this should not be used as a benchmark to compare against.

The ecologist and a member of his team currently attend Channels every 2 weeks for a full day. This is an increase to the frequency of previous visits and has been agreed with the developers involved in all phases and the Site Wide Management Company. They are responsible for ensuring that everything is being maintained in line with The Landscape and Nature Conservation Management Plan and this includes making regular repairs to the fences put in place to protect the newts and inspecting the tunnels used by the newts (across the whole site not just the Channels development area). This has recently resulted in an increase in the Service Charge however it is expected that in the long term the frequency of their visits will be reduced and the savings from this will be passed onto residents.

Both the ecologist and head gardener are open to working with the Channels Residents Community Group. However the ecologist made it clear that any specific requests will need to be signed off to ensure they are in line with The Landscape and Nature Conservation Plan however he will be pragmatic and work with us to create areas which are for the benefit of all residents.

The ecologist has also offered to provide additional visits to the site and guidance to our group in support of what we are trying to achieve, at no extra cost. This will be arranged via DJC Property Management.

The Community Group Committee will assist in educating existing residents about the overall ecology and will work with DJC Property Management to arrange appropriate signage to prevent residents damaging ecological areas. We continue to encourage feedback via the Community Group on all communal landscaping matters, rather than residents taking things up individually with DJC, as this will ensure consistency of approach.

There are a number of specific areas around the development where improvements can be made to planting and weed control that we are currently discussing with DJC Property Management and we will provide updates in due course. There are also a number of broader issues that have been covered by the Estates Report submitted to Bellway for which a response is due by 31st July 2018.

Please do continue to provide feedback and log concerns via the Community Group website and you can be assured that all comments are taken into consideration even though you may not receive a personalised response.

Estate Management Report

Dear Residents,

Please find below a copy of the report which has been submitted to Richard Burrows, Bellway Homes Divisional Managing Director for Essex.

We have requested a formal response from Bellway no later than Tuesday 31st July and have specifically flagged Section 10 of the report which requests a full site ‘walk around’ with Bellway executives where every issue can be logged and actions agreed with defined milestones and deadlines demonstrating how each issue will be dealt with.

If you have any specific comments on the report that you believe will support our discussions with Bellway, please submit them below:

Andrew Wright
On behalf of the Channels Residents Community Group

Estates Update

Dear Residents,

A couple of key updates for you to be aware of:

Estate Management Report
The Community Group Committee have today submitted an Estates Report to Richard Burrows, Bellway Homes Divisional Managing Director for Essex. The report flags examples (with plenty of photographic evidence) of all the issues that we believe exist in relation to the condition and quality of the estate.

The vast majority of concerns that have been logged via this website are also covered by the report and we have requested a response no later than 31st July 2018. The Report will be made available on the website once an acknowledgement has been received from Bellway.

Please do continue logging your concerns, even if you think someone else might have already done so as this continues to provide additional evidence as to the strength of feeling in relation to estates issues.

Service Charge Budgets
The revised 2018/19 Service Charge Budgets (as received from DJC Property Management in June) are now uploaded to the website for reference.

Andrew Wright
On behalf of the Channels Residents Community Group

Committee Meeting Update

Dear Residents,

The Estate Committee members met on Tuesday 26th June to discuss progress and next steps to take forward our action plan. The following is a summary of key upadates:

Estate Management Report
We are aiming to complete a detailed report for presentation to Bellway within the next couple of weeks which will flag all of the issues that we believe exist in relation to the condition and quality of the estate. This is progressing well and we have plenty of evidence by way of photos as well as the concerns that are being logged by residents.

DJC Property Management Meeting
We have a meeting scheduled with DJC Property Management on Monday 2nd July. This is to keep DJC informed of our action plan, to discuss those areas we feel are not being progressed in line with the service summary and to understand the issues with handover of land areas that are currently not being maintained.

Ecologist Meeting
We have a meeting scheduled with the ecologist for Wednesday 4th July. The objective is to understand the conditions of the original planning requirements, what can and cannot be done with the ‘managed areas’ of land, what the ecologist is actually doing and the rationale for the increase in costs with effect from 1st July.

Please do continue logging your concerns, even if you think someone else might have already done so. We are logging everything and we will be including an Issues Log as an appendix to the Estate Management Report which will provide good evidence as to the strength of feeling generally.

Andrew Wright
On behalf of the Channels Residents Community Group