NEARLY 1,000 Thorpe Bay homeowners have started to cut themselves loose of legal restrictions which cost them thousands of pounds to get permission for even minor changes to their homes.
So far, 943 people on the Burges Estate have decided to pay to free themselves from a legal condition imposed by Thorpe Estate, which owns the freehold to much of the estate land.
Restrictive covenants allowed the firm to charge as much as £50,000 for permission to build extensions, or even put in double glazing or new front doors.
Burges Estate Residents’ Association is now writing to the other 600 households affected, urging them to take the chance to alter their deeds – a right won as a result of an Echo campaign last year.
Last September, Thorpe Estate gave 1,550 households until April 2014 to apply to buy freehold rights to their homes, or get the covenants lifted.
Residents’ association chairman Ron Woodley said: “What this means is for now and for ever, they will have freed themselves of the draconian measures any freeholder of the estate could use.”
Under the deal, leaseholders can buy their freeholds for £1,500, or get the covenants lifted for £750. Homeowners who fail to take up the offer by next month could still be penalised by any future owner of the overall freehold. Other covenants, designed to safeguard the character of the estate, by barring flats conversions and commercial use, will remain.
Fred Watson, 82, of Tyrone Road, submitted his agreement to his lawyer on Friday. He said: “It’s good. It’s one less hurdle if you want to sell your house.”
A spokesman for Thorpe Estate said: “We are pleased to announce the first residents’ association-agreed freehold acquisitions and releases of covenants completed earlier this year.”
GROUP WANTS MANAGEMENT ROLE
HAVING won the covenant battle, the Burges Estate Residents’ Association is keen to become more actively involved in the future management of the estate.
Chairman Ron Woodley and treasurer Mike Stafford, have fought a nine-year battle to force Thorpe Estate to surrender the covenants.
The group may now work with Thorpe Estate to enforce restrictive covenants against householders who decide not to buy out their covenants.
Mr Woodley, who is also an Independent Southend councillor for Thorpe ward, said: “There is a possibility, but we are in the early stages. The association will be there to enforce the covenants and make sure people who haven’t taken the offer fulfil their obligations.”
The association could take over management of the estate from Pier Management, which has been accused of overcharging.
In future, households which refuse the present offer are likely still have to pay a £250 plus VAT admin fee to get permission to change their homes.
OW THE ECHO HELPED THEM TO WIN FREEDOM
PROTECTIVE covenants have plagued Burges Estate residents for nearly three decades.
Homeowners who only owned leasehold properties – which was the case for most – were legally obliged to get the freehold owner’s permission to make even the smallest alterations.
For this, the freehold owner was entitled to make a “reasonable administration charge”.
However, charges started increasing in 1984, after the Thorpe Bay Estate Company bought the freehold.
They increased further in 2001, when the estate was jointly taken over by the Regis Group and local firm the Robert Leonard Group. The two firms own Thorpe Estate, the company.
In 2011, they bowed to mounting public pressure and adverse publicity and agreed residents only had to pay £250 plus VAT to alter properties.
However, in August 2012, it became clear some residents were still being charged more.
As a result of an Echo story, Thope Estates’ agent Pier Management, agreed to repay £1,000 Frank and Denise Summers had shelled out for permission for a disabled access ramp at their home in of Marcus Chase, Thorpe Bay.
Other residents also won refunds as a result of Echo stories.
By December that year, the firm had repaid more than £71,000. The total now stands at more than £100,000.
A year ago, Burges Estate Residents’ Association voted to accept a provisional offer from Thorpe Estate allowing residents to buy their freeholds or have covenants lifted.
The deal was offered in September and the first deals have now been finalised.