Estates Update

Dear Residents,

You will have noticed significant estates works being undertaken around the development recently and we met with Bellway again on Tuesday 9th October to discuss progress. Whilst there is a generic over-arching plan, we expressed concern at the lack of a detailed schedule of works and as such a decision was taken to use our issues/snagging list as the basis for managing and monitoring the ongoing remedial work. The list has been turned into a Project Plan which will include detailed tangible actions, estimated completion dates and reasons for slippage where appropriate.

We have requested that the Project Plan is reviewed and fully updated by close of play Friday 19th October however it is important to note however that some remedial work will be undertaken at specific times to ensure the best possible outcome. For example, new and replacement trees will be planted during November.

You will have also noticed that a number of new Street Name Signs have been installed during the last week which are now council ‘approved’ and this should assist with visitors, delivery drivers and emergency services being able to find their way around. We are however aware that some of the signage on Aqua Verde is still not consistent with that on Eagle Rise and this has been raised.

Whilst the new Street Name Signs have all been installed in line with the conveyance plan, 35 of them were on private land and in many cases no warning was given to residents, either in advance or when works began. Bellway have confirmed that under no circumstances are ground workers to enter or carry out works on private property in the future without the owner’s prior written consent.

Bellway have advised that connection of lamp posts will take longer that initially planned. A number of Lamp posts are having to be re-ducted and UK Power Networks are having to adjoin the lamp posts across the site individually. Unfortunately areas of block paving across the site will have to be dug up and works will take place in sections to avoid as much disturbance to residents as possible. A more detailed plan will be provided imminently so that residents can be informed of when & where each section of work will take place.

It is also important to note that we have agreed with Bellway no remedial work can be signed off for handover without involvement of the Community Group. As residents will become responsible for all communal land once Bellway leave the site, we need to ensure that it is in a ‘fit for purpose’ state before taking ownership.

As always, if there are estates related concerns that you do not believe are being addressed, ensure you log them so we can review and if necessary add to the Project Plan.

Andrew Wright
Channels Residents Community Group

Bus Service Update

As all residents will be aware we have been experiencing an unreliable and unacceptable service from First for the 51 bus and as a result Rachel has been keeping a log for the last 3 months of cancelled and delayed buses as notified by residents of the Bellway Channels Estate.

She has forwarded the ‘Bus Log’ to First with her complaint on multiple occasions, both personally and in the name of the Community Group. Unfortunately no response has been received and we are aware that other residents have also complained themselves. Bellway, who provided significant funding to ‘pump prime’ the service, has also contacted First and at the time of writing has received no response.

Our local MP, Kemi Badennoch, has been advised and we have tried to involve (Alternative Dispute Resolution Body) and the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, who we are still to hear back from.

The Residents Community Group has however made some significant progress with a contact representing the company which undertook the original procurement of the 51 Bus Service on behalf of developers. An investigation is due to take place and the ‘Bus Log’ will be used as evidence in this process. Once this investigation has taken place and we have more information to share, we will provide a further update.

Going forward it is imperative that we keep recording when a bus is cancelled or delayed by over 10 minutes at any designated stop so that we have evidence of continued failures.

We have tried to simplify this process and as such if the bus is cancelled or delayed please can you contact Rachel using the form on the Channels Residents Community Group website. Due to the number of occurrences currently being flagged, it will be far easier for her to track than via social media where posts quickly become lost in long news feeds.

As a final note, whilst we are aware just how frustrating this issue is, we do not want to jeopardise our chances of reaching a resolution and as such please be mindful that berating the bus drivers is not likely to help our cause. Please be assured that the Community Group is making progress on your behalf and we will provide updates accordingly.

Channels Residents Community Group

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