Residents ready to battle Suburb Trust over £110

DOZENS of residents are preparing for a court battle with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust in a move that could ruin the area s centennial celebrations

Katie Davies

DOZENS of residents are preparing for a court battle with the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust in a move that could ruin the area's centennial celebrations.

A group of residents are challenging the management charge they have to pay to the Trust to safeguard the area's conservation.

The fee was hiked from £47 to £89.50 last year and is now going up again - to £110.

Eva Cieplinska-Bertini is leafleting the 3,500 houses in the Suburb - which are homes to the likes of Jonathan Ross, Richard and Judy and Sacha Baron-Cohen.

She said: "We have noticed the bills for the management charge suddenly went up this year by 90 per cent.

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"It is not about the money it is the principle of the thing. They tell us if we don't pay we will get a criminal record - we feel that is some sort of arrogance. I have been surprised by the support we have received. The more of us there are the better."

A separate case is being taken by Angus Walker who wants the charge to be linked to council tax bands.

The North Square resident said: "The idea for the charge to be arranged like this has been around for a long time. It is common sense and more reasonable."

A tribunal for both cases is being held on March 28 and many are supporting Mr Walker's suggestion as a compromise.

Hampstead Garden Residents Association has pleaded for his idea to be accepted to avoid a court battle that could overshadow the 100-year celebrations in May.

Members passed a motion earlier this month stating: "It would be a matter of the greatest regret if there were a dispute about the Trust management charge in the Suburb's Centenary Year. [The association] supports the introduction of a graded management charge based on Council Tax bands."

But the Trust is refusing to budge.

Chairman Mervyn Mandell said: "A banded charge has been discussed and after due consideration by some very qualified people on the Trust we decided to stick to what we are doing at present. It is the cheapest and the simplest method.

"Overall it is not a lot of money - not even for people on basic salaries or pensions or whatever.

"These are not significant amounts of money. I think people end up paying no more than £2 a week.

"Houses have gone up to values of £5million to £10million in the Suburb. There are no houses or flats worth less than £250,000-£300,000."

Former Trust manager Chris Kellerman said: "I was in charge of the trust for 20 years and each year the charge increased with inflation. The whole thing operates by consent if people feel ripped off they (the Trust) will have real problems.