Bognor Regis homeowners were put in ‘appalling’ position over developer’s debts

The shadow of an £81,000 debt left after a developer went into administration has been lifted from relieved residents in Bognor Regis.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 1:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 1:25 pm
New properties in Queens Field East, Bognor Regis (photo from Google Maps Street View)

When Mildren Homes Ltd went into administration in 2017, the company owed £81,459.77 of unpaid Section 106 contributions for ten homes it had built in West Mead off Queens Field East.

While West Sussex County Council wrote off its portion of the debt, Arun District Council told people living in the new homes that they were technically liable for the money.

A report put before the district council’s cabinet said the homeowners could have been billed for between £3.4k and £10.2k, depending on the size of their home.

The district council has now decided to write off the debt and take no action against the residents.

Leader Gillian Brown said it was ‘appalling’ that the homeowners had been put in that situation.

John Charles, cabinet member for planning, told the meeting that the whole issue started in 2011 when Mildren Homes agreed to pay contributions of £118,320 towards pubic space and affordable housing provision.

The money should have been paid before building work started but, when the homes were completed in 2014/15, £81,459.77 was still outstanding.

The council didn’t start chasing the developer for the debt until December 2016.

Seven months later, Mildren Homes went into administration and the council’s attention turned to the homeowners.

Mr Charles said: “I authorised seeking to obtain the money from homeowners as I believed that the two ward councillors had been consulted and supported the action.

“However, due to an administrative oversight, this had not taken place and, subsequently, I now understand both ward councillors are against taking an action against the homeowners.”

Chief executive Nigel Lynn said the council did have the legal right to pass on the debt to the homeowners – but acknowledged that, if the council had chased Mildren Homes between 2014 and 2016, the money might have been paid then.

Mrs Brown said: “I think it’s appalling that the owners of the properties have been put in this position and it only came to our attention because one property owner wanted to sell.

“None of this mess is their fault. They’ve already paid their S106 contribution in the price of the house.”

The cabinet voted unanimously to write off the debt and take no action against the homeowners.

As they left the meeting, one of the West Mead residents thanked the councillors for their decision and said: “This has hugely lifted the pressure, anxiety and stress that this has caused so many of the residents of West Mead. Thank you sincerely.”