VOTE: Fernhurst residents in water bill battle

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Householders on the former ICI/Syngenta estate at Fernhurst have been threatened with legal action if they don’t pay water bills the present site owner, Comer Homes, says they owe.

But the residents are fighting back – because the bills range from £8,000 to £18,000 per household, mostly for a period of less than three years.

In the week the property company is seeking support from Fernhurst people for plans to develop the ICI estate, which has lain dormant since Syngenta moved out nine years ago, homeowners there are preparing to do battle over their bills.

They say Comer Homes has re-issued invoices originally sent out last August for astronomical amounts which, across the privately-owned properties on the estate, total around £238,000.

Since ICI sold off the two dozen or so houses more than 20 years ago, water has continued to run through the taps from a private supply.

Anthony Davies moved into his house on the Bridgelands part of the estate in 1986. He last paid a water bill of £275 for the year ending March 31, 2008. The demand to cover the period since then is a staggering £17,263.

“The last invoice we got from the Comer Homes agent, which we paid, was based on the formula agreed in our deeds when ICI sold this property,” Mr Davies said.

“We have never had any notification it was going to be anything else, but it seems they have broken up the total amount of £238,000 between the privately-owned properties, based on their council tax band.

“They have re-issued the invoices sent out last August but this time with a letter giving us 21 days to pay or face a county court summons.”

When the residents got their first fright five months ago, they made contact with Comer Homes’ project manager for Fernhurst, Jack O’Brien.

He promised to study the paperwork relating to the bills.

“But he never came back to us and now we are just referred to their solicitors who are dealing with this. The company is not prepared to talk at all now,” Mr Davies said.

Last autumn, Comer Homes was not prepared to talk to the Observer either, saying it was ‘a private matter’.

Residents say they believe the reason for their giant bills is that Comer Homes has, itself, received a large demand from South East Water, which supplies the private system, for the cost of repairs and leaks.