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Not on estate agents' websites or those of chartered surveyors or those of the Eastbourne Borough Council or East Sussex County Council or by the Eastbourne office of the Citizen's Advice Bureau is it revealed that residential freeholders and leaseholders and their successors of Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour property are legally required by covenant to pay a unique Annual Estate Rentcharge of £263.55 per residential unit for 2020 in addition to council taxes, property insurance, management fees and ground rents. (The only partial-exemptions from this Annual Estate Rentcharge are for the first 364 homes built at Sovereign Harbour. They were exempt from the Marina Charge but are liable for the SW charge). All Annual Estate Rentcharge Deeds are registered by the Sovereign Harbour Trust and/or its Community Interest Company shown below with the Land Registry. Nowhere is it stated, as it surely should be, by any of these entities that this Annual Estate Rentcharge is unique to Sovereign Harbour residents, it does not apply in any other flood area or harbour or marina area or private estate anywhere else in Britain, the UK, Europe or the world. Nor do they state that much of it of it is for Environment Agency-provided flood defence. Also omitted by these entities is the fact that only Sovereign Harbour residents have to pay it. Yet this flood defence scheme covers a much wider flood zone area than just the 4,300 or so homes in Sovereign Harbour. In fact, more than 15,500 homes in areas of Pevensey, Pevensey Bay, Wealden District Council and beyond to Bexhill on Sea, 8 miles east also get this same flood defence service. But do they also pay for it? No, only Sovereign Harbour residents, via the Annual Estate Rentcharge. Sovereign Harbour homeowners are required in the lease and/or purchase deeds of each flat or house to  pay this to the Wellcome Trust-owned private Sovereign Harbour Trust via its private subsidiary the Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company Ltd, to Premier Marinas, owned by The Wellcome Trust. When a property changes hands the new buyer is charged at least £120, an unwelcome additional charge of the total transaction cost. But completely omitted on the websites of the last four named entities is both any mention that this Annual Estate Rentcharge liability applies to Sovereign Harbour dwellers only, no one else, and that a charge for it is applied to newcomers. Nor is it mentioned anywhere on their websites that the only purpose of the Sovereign Harbour Trust's Sovereign Harbour (Sea Defences) Community Interest Company Ltd is to charge Sovereign Harbour residents the Annual Estate Rentcharge, not give them any beneficial community interest of any kind. While resident property owners and long-lease-holders are required to pay for this Annual Estate Rentcharge, businesses including all developers of Sovereign Harbour properties and their managing agents and property developers are exempted. A second unique covenant requires owners/leaseholders of 369 South Harbour properties in the water feature precinct to pay an additional annual charge of more than £328. It is the only such water feature in the world that applies such a charge to properties adjacent to or overlooking it. Notice about this second covenant is also withheld by most estate agents from prospective buyers of relevant Sovereign Harbour South properties. By deliberately not mentioning that this specific Annual Estate Rentcharge is payable by both freehold and leasehold homeowners, or disguising it as merely a standard harbour charge similar to other harbour areas, which it is not, estate agents who market Sovereign Harbour properties also fail to inform relevant banks and mortgage companies, many of whom for legal reasons may not approve mortgages on properties that are subject to an estate rentcharge.

What Eastbourne Borough Council councillors don't do for Sovereign Harbour residents

Here is a list of what other town areas get but we who live here do not

By Keith A. Forbes and his wife Lois Ann Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk  Both disabled, they live in Eastbourne and write, administer and webmaster this website. Keith is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.

The following examples highlight this: 

East Sussex County Council

Eastbourne Town Hall

Eastbourne Town Hall, where our councillors not not give Sovereign Harbour residents the same rights as the rest of Eastbourne

Member of Parliament and Councillors

Sovereign Harbour is part of Eastbourne Borough Council's Sovereign Ward. A Ward is a local electoral district.  Sovereign Ward also includes the residential areas of Langney Point and Kingsmere and homes on the south side of St. Anthony's Avenue and the Queen's Crescent area. The Sovereign Harbour area, largest part of the ward, is the largest composite marina development in the UK and the largest sheltered marina in northern Europe.

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1. EBC Sovereign Ward Councillors allow estate agents to omit showing key facts about Sovereign Harbour for prospective newcomers

They deliberately fail to ensure that estate agents comply fully with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (BPRs). The government took this step to reduce duplicate legislation regulating estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and lettings. The previous legislation, the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 (PMA), which had made it a criminal offence for estate agents to make false or misleading statements about properties being offered for sale, was repealed on1 October 2013. The CPRs prohibit all traders from using unfair commercial practices in their dealings with individual consumers, and estate agents in particular are prohibited from engaging in commercial practices that are unfair to sellers, buyers, potential sellers or potential buyers of residential property. The BPRs prohibit traders in all sectors, including estate agents, from using misleading practices in their business-to-business advertisements. This includes misleading marketing used to advertise property for sale. While the PMA only covered estate agents, the CPRs and BPRs are much wider in scope covering letting agents and property managers. 

The CPRs prohibit misleading actions that cause or are likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision he or she would not have taken otherwise. The CPRs prohibit misleading actions that could cause average consumers to take a transactional decision he or she or they would not take otherwise.  A transactional decision is not just whether a consumer decides to purchase a property but also includes such things as to whether to view a property in the first place. A misleading action or omission includes omitting to mention any deeds or covenants or restrictions unique to an area such as those we alone in the UK, Europe and the world have to bear here in Sovereign Harbour. We know beyond any doubt this has caused some consumers, after hearing about the facts from present residents, to neither want to view nor buy or rent or lease any Sovereign Harbour property because of the extra costs and conditions of the Estate Rent charge and other factors that nowhere else imposes. 

Although the CPRs and BPRs have now been in force since 2008, some are clearly still unfamiliar to many estate agents and relevant others selling or leasing or renting properties and consumers.  This prompted the Office of Fair Trading to publish guidance specifically for estate agents on the new Regulations on what they need to know in applying descriptions on a property. They have been circulated and can be seen at https://www.businesscompanion.info/en/quick-guides/services/estate-agents-property-descriptions. There is also know a specified Code of Practice for all residential Estate Agents and relevant others. See  https://www.tradingstandards.uk/media/documents/commercial/codes-of-practice/tpo-sales.pdf Thus, Estate agents and relevant others selling or leasing or renting properties to consumers need to be particularly careful about how they advertise properties for sale or lettings, and to make sure their particulars on properties are accurate. Describing properties as ‘stunning’, ‘desirable’ or in a ‘quiet area’ now require evidence to back up such statements. Estate agents and relevant others selling or leasing or renting properties to consumers particulars that contain misleading omissions are also liable by the new Regulations. 

Agents who do not wish to be in contravention of the new rules and regulations are now expected to make sure they have all their client vendors or landlords check and sign off on the accuracy of their particulars. Agents should also ensure their staff are trained on making certain their particulars and advertising are compliant with the Regulations. General disclaimers telling buyers not to rely on details are no longer valid, but are still being used by estate agents with the councils' full knowledge. Estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and leasing or letting that breach either the CPRs or BPRs risk prosecution by their local authority trading standards services responsible for enforcement by bringing criminal prosecutions. On conviction, agents can face substantial fines or in more serious cases imprisonment.

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2. Sovereign Harbour councillors are actively involved in making Sovereign Harbour residents alone pay a unique Annual Estate Rent Charge, found nowhere else in the world

Not mentioned on any estate agents or council or public authority or any other community websites is that potential purchasers of residential Sovereign Harbour property must know in advance that the Estate Rental Charge, when mentioned at all, is referred to misleadingly as an annual flood defence and harbour charge payable by them but is not levied anywhere else in Britain or Europe or the world. A much wider geographical flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting  more than 17,000 homes as far as Bexhill, yet only 3,700 Sovereign Harbour residents (and subsequent owners) are covenanted pay the annual cost. The previous Member of Parliament has stated publicly this is unfair and unjust. Yet all business services including management companies and property developers harbour-wide are exempted. An additional covenant, again not payable anywhere else in the world, applies to owners of some South Harbour properties in the water feature precinct. In both cases, they are in addition to local council taxes, insurance, management fees and ground rents. These key facts should not be omitted yet are being consistently ignored by estate agents marketing Sovereign Harbour properties.  The two councils benefit hugely from the fact that about five million visitors a year visit Eastbourne and probably more than 10% of them, at least 500,000, visit Sovereign Harbour, admire its views, swim from its two beaches, or cycle or walk along its beach and harbour walkways. In nowhere else in the world do the local authorities make residents alone pay for the facilities enjoyed by the general public.  In fact: 

The Eastbourne Borough Council has a representative on the board of the private sector Sovereign Harbour Trust and its subsidiary that levies the Annual Estate Rental Charge/harbour charge/water/flood defense charge above. Instead of formally objecting to it on behalf of their Sovereign Harbour constituents who alone have to pay the charge, and/or ensuring that others beyond Sovereign Harbour  who are also included in the flood area must pay it too instead of being exempted, our two councils both approve it and have direct representation on the facility that requires us to pay it via its Community Interest Company. This Estate Rental Charge occurs solely and uniquely within their jurisdiction. It means that both leasehold and freehold properties are thus covenanted in ways no other local authority in the UK, Europe or the world encounters. 

Sovereign Harbour Councillors are unconcerned by the fact the 2020 cost of the Annual Estate Rentcharge of £263.55 per residential unit applies, irrespective of whether a residential unit is worth £158,000 or £800,000 or more. Yet council taxes are banded in council-assessed values with the least valuable paying far less than the most valuable.

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3. EBC and ESCC councillors will not tell you, as legal resources do (see below) to beware of places like Sovereign Harbour with Estate Rent Charges

So say all various law firms and entities below because they cause grave concern. But Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council have approved them for implementation by all property developers in Sovereign Harbour including the newest developments. Yet they do not exist in any of the 11 other Eastbourne or East Sussex areas.

People are in danger of becoming mortgage prisoners unless urgent action is taken by central government and local authorities, experts have warned. The Conveyancing Association says the industry must move quickly to deal with the estate rentcharge issue which is becoming a “ticking timebomb”. Mortgage lenders are increasingly wary of properties that are subject to uncapped or unclear service charges for the upkeep of roads and shared areas that are not looked after by the local council. The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association says banks and building societies may refuse to lend on properties with high or increasing charges, making them potentially unmortgageable and unsaleable. As lenders tighten their policies regarding such maintenance contracts, existing borrowers who took out their deals before restrictions came into force may struggle to remortgage in the future, leaving them trapped. Your Mortgage Decisions director Dominik Lipnicki says: “We have heard horror stories about the cost of some service charges. This is in danger of becoming the next mis-selling scandal and creating a new wave of mortgage prisoners. The government and regulators need to get to grips with the issue quickly or it will have a severe effect on property values.” Imla executive director Kate Davies explains that there are occasions when management fees are perfectly acceptable to ensure the upkeep of an estate, particularly where a local authority is not willing or able to take responsibility for roads and infrastructure on a development. But she says the fees must be fair and reasonable. 

Davies says: “Developers should make it absolutely clear up-front what services are to be provided and how the fees will be both initially set and subsequently increased. Lenders will always take a pragmatic approach to estate charges, but the protection of the borrower will be a priority. If any arrangements are unclear or potentially onerous, the lender may impose restrictions or ultimately decline to lend a property. Uncapped fees which could be increased without challenge or control, could therefore render a property both unsaleable and unmortgageable.” Developers will often sell on the land an estate sits on or the right to levy these servicing fees (known as “rentcharges” in the legal jargon) to a management company or property investment firm. By law, this landowner or rentcharge owner has the right to take drastic steps to recover their money if charges go unpaid for more than 40 days. These measures known as “remedies” under Section 121 of the Law of Property Act 1925 include repossessing the property or granting a long lease and requiring the home owner to pay a premium and the court costs to get rid of the lease.

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4. Councillors of local authorities allow concealment key information from mortgage lenders

Neither the councillors nor their councils require estate agents to state up-front, accurately, that there is an Annual Estate Rentcharge applicable on all Sovereign Harbour residential properties. Instead, they allow estate agents,  chartered surveyors, solicitors and local entities to refer to it inaccurately and misleadingly as a "harbour charge" -implying it is on the same basis as other harbour charges. It is not the same, it is hugely different.  Reputable mortgage lenders are very wary, for sound legal reasons, of financing properties affected by a rentcharge. To protect consumers who live in their areas, councils should be protecting them. They should not be allowing mortgage lenders to be deceived.

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5. Council Taxes payable by Harbour residents are higher than rest of Eastbourne but their market value is lower

Newcomers need to know they will pay appreciably more Council Taxes than other parts of Eastbourne even though their properties may worth less in market value than homes elsewhere in Eastbourne. Many estate agents selling or leasing or renting Sovereign Harbour properties do not habitually show the Council Tax applicable to each property. Here,  council taxes are paid to not one but two local authorities, Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council (which gets the biggest share of the taxes). A councillor from each authority serves Sovereign Harbour. Council Taxes in Sovereign Harbour are on average the highest in Eastbourne, far higher even for leasehold properties with no ownership of gardens or communal gardens or garages or outbuildings than for single family freehold residences with garages and outbuildings elsewhere in Eastbourne and with a higher market value.

Sovereign Harbour is Eastbourne's highest-yielding Ward for Council Taxes collection, with far fewer liabilities than other wards. Sovereign Harbour residents pay the highest council taxes in Eastbourne for mostly leasehold properties that in terms of market value are worth far less than others elsewhere in Eastbourne that are worth far more yet pay lower Council Taxes. There is not a single property in Sovereign Harbour in the A or B Council Tax category. Nor are there any schools to fund or playing fields. Sovereign Ward councillors. Nor do Sovereign Harbour beaches come under their jurisdiction. Sovereign Harbour residents pay the highest council taxes in the UK but get the fewest council-provided benefits. Neither the Eastbourne County Council nor East Sussex County Council recognize that for the Estate Rent Charge Sovereign Harbour residents alone have to pay on top of their Council Taxes they should be receiving a similarly unique category of a lower council tax applicable solely to payers of the Estate Rental Charge. Instead of being shown legally as Renters because they come under this unique Estate Rental Charge they get no discount, even when most residents are in fact not owners but long-leaseholders.

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6. Councillors allow instead of prohibit cyclists to ride on Sovereign Harbour walkways, pathways and footpaths, often dangerously in defiance of walkers, pedestrians, runners, the  elderly, vulnerable, disabled and children, despite Covid 19 social distancing orders from central government

Councillors should be protecting and supporting their constituents by (a) realizing that under the Equality Act cyclists should walk not ride their cycles so as not to have a speed advantage over pedestrians and the vulnerable and (b) requiring cyclists to keep to the registered cycle track shared areas of council-adopted Atlantic and Pacific Avenues. 

With Covid 19 so prevalent in the UK since March 2020, EBC councillors are not insisting as they should and as central government requires all including councillors to abide by, that social distancing be as mandatory on Sovereign Harbour's walkways and pavements as they are elsewhere. Two cyclists passing in opposite direction need approximately three metres of space to maintain a two metre gap. On a two metre path, such as exists long Sovereign Harbour North's beachfront, social distancing is impossible. Thus such paths need to be closed to cyclists instead of councillors permitting them. It is time County and Borough adhered to government's central advice on what constitutes quality walking and cycling  active travel) strategies.

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7. Councillors do not give residents in Sovereign Harbour Sovereign the same recognition from local authorities as other parts of Eastbourne get

There are two Eastbournes. One, the far larger part, comprising all other 11 wards, is fair.  But the Sovereign Harbour part of Sovereign Ward is prejudiced against. 

Sovereign Harbour is not included in any of the present or planned Tourism Accommodation areas of Eastbourne. There, they are are confined to the town or nearby on its western side, see http://planningpolicyconsult.eastbourne.gov.uk/consult.ti/TAR_SPD/viewCompoundDoc?docid=8089684&sessionid=&voteid=&partId=8090292, According to that illustration there are no present or planned facilities in Sovereign Harbour, now one of Eastbourne's major tourism and visitor attractions. All tourism accommodation and visitor attractions are listed merely in or near the much more crowded Eastbourne town area, nice for local residents perhaps but now constantly and increasingly frustrating to tourists and visitors and not at all convenient to Sovereign Harbour (especially in rush hour or busy summertime traffic when it can take over 40 minutes by car or bus to go from the Eastbourne Pier area or town hotels to Sovereign Harbour less than three miles away). There are no Sovereign Harbour hotels but there are quite a few flats that offer quality tourist accommodation. Places with similar scenic features in other parts of the world that do offer any type of tourism accommodation are given adequate mention by their jurisdictions and it should be the case here too. 

Sovereign Harbour's two beaches are not shown as Eastbourne beaches. Listed Eastbourne beaches only go as far as groyne number 94 at Langney Point. The Eastbourne beach list should have long ago been extended to include these two Sovereign Ward beaches in Eastbourne. Presently, because they are not included in Eastbourne's beaches despite being in the Sovereign Ward councils area, they do not get the same level of supervision, oversight, dogs and leashes controls, usage rules and maintenance as Eastbourne beaches. No other localities in the UK with beaches in their council tax area deliberately omit beaches from their council jurisdiction.

Sovereign Harbour beaches cannot be used by the disabled, too much of a slope for those with either mobility or walking problems or in a wheelchair. Nor are there any toilets or benches or railings. Only Sovereign Harbour residents, including the disabled, have to pay for beach maintenance in their Annual Estate Rentcharge. But 3 million members of the general public can use the beaches for free. 

Council Tax costs

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8. In Sovereign Harbour, reporting  a beach or seafront issue is ignored by Eastbourne Borough Council councillors

Instead of dealing with it as a council issue, as it does in all other Eastbourne beaches - see http://www.eastbourne.gov.uk/residents/leisure-and-events/eastbourne-seafront/report-a-problem/report-a-seafron Thist-issue/ - the Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC)  states it is unable to respond to reports about Sovereign Harbour. This makes the EBC the only local authority not only in the whole of the UK but also in the rest of the world with a beach in the local authority's jurisdiction over which it does not regulate or have oversight or receive complaints and it is not responsible.

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9. Unlike in other areas of Eastbourne, Sovereign Harbour public roads have no council-provided tree-lined pavements

Unlike all other Eastbourne Wards. Come see for yourself. All streets and roads of Sovereign Harbour are completely tree-less. As we pay Council Taxes too we should get the same pleasant tree-lined streets.

The main thoroughfares of Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Avenue in particular, and all their side streets, instead of showing off the public highways, landscape and harbour to best advantage, can presently be compared to featureless and flora-deficient military bases or some residential areas immediately adjacent to prisons  In all other nice neighborhoods their councils both plant trees and roadside shrubs and pay the cost of maintaining them and these costs are included in their council taxes. This should be the case in Sovereign Harbour also. In all other worldwide locations where scenic harbours and seaside exist, their local authorities have planted tall trees and palms. Photographs showing how Sovereign Harbour compares with international harbour, marina and seaside areas in tree-lined scenes will shortly be appearing.

The central government has said recently that to improve the quality of people's lives in towns and cities it has given £4.2 million to each local authority to plant trees on streets on which they live. None of this has found its way to Sovereign Harbour. It is also accepted wisdom that trees planted on streets near where homes are for sale or rent can improve property prices by as much as 15-20%. Margaret Lipscombe, then the director of urban programmes at the Tree Council, says trees bring a plethora of benefits to people's lives. "Not only are trees beautiful but they are practical. They provide shade in the summer and then their leaves drop off, allowing light in when it is needed in winter. Additionally, they are good for climate change because trees and their foliage help put water back into the atmosphere which cools the area. And they jelp biodiversity as tree-lined streets provide wildlife, Plus, trees encourage healthier lifestyles. Studies have shown that people are calmer when trees are in their environment.  As the council has promised to put trees in the newest area of Sovereign Harbour North - Macauley Place - it should surely do the same to other streets and roads with no roadside trees elsewhere in Sovereign Harbour. 

Council-provided tree-lines streets except in Sovereign Harbour

Example of how councils elsewhere, except the Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council in  Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour, provide trees on roadsides

Trees needed for Sovereign Harbour pavements & walkways

Trees on an European walkway. Photo by authors Keith and Lois Forbes. If only Sovereign Harbour had such trees on any of its walkways or pavements

trees in a seaside area but not Sovereign Harbour

Trees overseas that grace a seaside area. No trees of any kind similarly enhance the Sovereign Harbour or its seaside area.

The Magic of Tree-Lined Streets. See https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/6/26/the-magic-of-tree-lined-streets-1

Plants for Coastal Areas. See https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=472 

Urban Tree Planting Opportunities. See http://www.greenblue.com/gb/green-infrastructure/urban-tree-planting-opportunities/ 

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10. EBC and ESCC accepted commuted sum payments from developers in lieu of affordable housing at Sovereign Harbour sites

Despite broadcasting publicly what they have been doing in affordable housing - see https://democracy.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/documents/s6189/Affordable%20Housing%20Supplementary%20Planning%20Document%20-%20Appendix%201.pdf - in fact they have, as councils, accepted extra payments from developers to exempt them from affordable housing requirements. A formula exists that allow developers to pay extra to their local councils to avoid affordable public housing that detracts from the marketability of the homes they build. 

The net effect of this has been that homes in those areas have cost homeowners more at Macauley Place and elsewhere, because the developers added the sums they have paid to councils to their costs to buyers. In the process, Councils have allowed developers on the private land they own to apply the Annual Estate Rentcharge.

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Keith A. Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk
© 2020. Revised: September 20, 2020