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Too poor to play?

In recent press reports, developers have been accused of separating social housing tenants from wealthier home owners by preventing them from using play areas.

Baylis Old School complex in Lambeth had been advertised as a housing complex with common areas for use by all residents. The developers, Henley Homes, later changed their plans to prevent communal use of a large play area.

The developers built a smaller play area for the social housing tenants’ children to use, which discharged their planning obligation to provide play space for under-fives.  However, as their plans were changed after a public consultation, people accused the developers of abusing the planning process to split the community.

Registered providers often do not want to pay service charges related to shared facilities such as play areas or gyms and opt to exclude the right to use such facilities from their transfers/leases.  Such decisions made by registered providers may backfire on developers when social housing tenants and the press blame the developers for such exclusions.

In the Baylis Old School matter, the developers have now decided that the play areas are to be used by everyone. It is not known who will pay for the shortfall in the service charge.  I suspect the developer will now be out of pocket!

When planning their service charge regimes and negotiating with registered providers, developers need to be aware that any separation of use of common areas could leave them, rather than the registered providers, facing criticism and bad press.

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