The UK village where residents must follow strict rules and landlords ‘measure the grass’

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Bournville in Birmingham is known by most as being a model village where employees at its Cadbury factory lived. The Bournville Estate is now home to more than 25,000 residents who live in 8,000 homes. The village differs from the neighbouring town of Selly Oak with its mock Tudor properties, well-maintained lawns and clean roads.

The village’s picture-perfect appearance is down to the Bournville Village Trust which not only keeps the suburb’s streets neat and tidy but enforces rules on residents that they must follow.

Residents of the village are expected to maintain their homes to a certain standard to preserve the village’s image.

These rules, which are set out in the Bournville Village Trust’s Design Guide, include where residents are allowed to park their vehicles and how to grow new hedges.

Founded by the Quaker Cadbury family, the Trust enforced a strict alcohol ban until 2015 which dated back to the roots of its founders, the Cadbury family.

The 120-year ban on alcohol was lifted after the council agreed to allow a small newsagent in the village to sell alcohol on its premises.

However, the village has no pubs or bars.

All residents of the Bournville Village Trust have to pay a fee to the Trust which reportedly ranges from between £120-£130 a month towards village upkeep.

Many of the village’s residents are happy to pay the fee to maintain the village’s standard.

Bournville resident Richard Trengrouse said people “have to make a conscious decision to live in Bournville”.

He added: “When you live under the Trust you have to submit development plans to both the city council and the Trust for approval.

“The Design Guide covers things like the style of bricks, type of roofing and windows which you’re allowed to have.”

Richard, who has been a resident for 10 years, said he has never felt restricted by the rules and speaks highly of the Trust.

He said those who move to Bournville are buying a “quality of environment”.

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“I’d pay triple the rate of rent to the Trust just to live here,” he said.

The resident said the Trust ensures the “quality” of the village is maintained.

Liz Quiney said the rules, planning and Design Guide ensure the area is “unique”.

She said those who disagree with the rules can “leave”.

Michael Walker said people living under the Trust “knew what they were signing up for”.

Luke Richardson said the rules “maintain standards” which is why the area is so sought-after and houses sell “within a week”.

However, some residents aren’t as positive about the Trust’s rules.

Resident Fred Allen-Darkes said living in Bournville “isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”.

He said some of the homes are not well-maintained with old windows.

The windows in his own home are nearly 130-years-old and are meant to have been replaced.

He claimed the Trust is meant to be “eco-conscious”, however, his property’s original timber single-glazed windows have meant he is “heating the street” each winter with his energy bills.

Ms Allen-Darkes, who has lived in the village for 10 years, claimed the Trust “sweats” over the design rules while ignoring other issues.

She told BirminghamLive: “As landlords, they tend to sweat the small stuff – things that aren’t particularly important on the grand scale of things.

“They have been known to go around and measure the length of the grass – stupid things like that – but things that matter to tenants they don’t appear to care about.”

Kate Paine said the Trust isn’t always consistent with getting people to adhere to the rules.

The resident said she wanted to alter her double-glazed windows but was told she wasn’t allowed to by the Trust.

Whereas other homes on the road have managed to alter their double glazed windows.

In 2020, one couple was told to knock down their £10,000 summer house they had built at the bottom of their garden because it did not adhere to the Trust’s planning rules.

The couple slammed the trust for the “extremely struct” approach to development work.

In response, Pete Richmond, Chief Executive of Bournville Village Trust, said: “In 2020, we carried out a comprehensive review of Bournville Village Trust with the aim of improving what we do for the people and communities we work with.

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“Since then we’ve made good progress in delivering for our communities and last year, we launched a new modern community-led design guide for the Bournville Estate, invested nearly £2million into improving our rented homes, and supported over 300 vulnerable households with food and energy bills.

“Like many organisations, we’re not without our challenges, but we are committed to continuing to improve the standard of our rented homes, including replacing timber windows in the Bournville conservation area which will start this year.

“Over the next six years, we’ll invest over £20m in improving homes.

“We’re also making improvements to customer service to make sure we provide a quality and fair approach across all our services.

“We would encourage any residents with specific concerns or queries about the service they have received from us to contact us so we can resolve them.”

Additional reporting by Nathan Clarke

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