A Gaywood housing development built eight years ago is finally nearing completion after residents clubbed together to pay for £121,000 of works.
Millfields estate, off Mill Lane, was built in 2006 but developers Fern Developments went bust and the site was left unfinished.
Most of the homes were bought and being lived in but street lighting, roads, kerbs and the water supply had not been finished to a standard where they could be adopted by the relevant authorities.
A residents’ association was set up and went into battle to get the job done, led by former army warrant officer Ron Mortimer, who served with the Royal Anglian regiment for 22 years.
Mr Mortimer, 68, of nearby Wootton Road, was approached by North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham who he knew from his time at Cambridge University’s Officer Training Corps in the late 1970s.
Mr Mortimer said: “Henry Bellingham knew my character and knew what I could achieve. Being loyal to the man, and respecting the man, I agreed to take on this project for him.” Mr Mortimer said he treated the project as a military operation, gathering the intelligence he needed from all of the organisations involved.
He discovered a total of £121,000 was needed to complete the work and much of this came from ‘retention funds’ which solicitors hold when people buy new properties.
Mr Mortimer helped residents to access this money and those who did not have retention money available were asked to contribute £1,500 each.
Mr Mortimer has voluntarily given 15 months of his life, often working until 3am or 4am, to ensure the work on the estate is completed.
He said: “I am absolutely indebted to my committee and other residents who have helped us fight what was a very difficult and challenging campaign.
“We got there in the end and the residents will be able to enjoy what is one of the nicest estates in King’s Lynn.”
Mr Mortimer hopes the work will be completed by the end of June, ready for adoption by Norfolk County Council.
Mr Bellingham said: “Ron has been unbelievable. He is a community hero and deserves to be honoured. Once he started he was determined to see it through.
“This estate was left in a shocking way. Although the houses on the estate are well built the builder went into liquidation before the roads, pavements, fences etc could be completed prior to adoption by the county council.
“Equally unfortunate was the fact that there was a significant funding gap between the bond money paid over by some residents and the cost of completing the work.
“Furthermore, we had a classic chicken and egg situation whereby the county council could not adopt the road till the work had been completed, and obviously were not in a position to finance the project.
“The very good news is that through the residents working together and securing the cooperation of all of the authorities and bodies involved, work is now well underway and it will be to the necessary standard for the county council to adopt it.
“So many people in the community have worked hard and this is a really amazing example of a community rallying around and working to the greater good.
“This is a very happy ending.”
Mr Bellingham and Mr Mortimer are now calling for a change in the law to ensure that developers cannot get planning permission unless there is a guarantee of retention money being available should any problems occur.
A private members bill is due to be heard later this year which the pair hope will result in a change in the law.
Mr Mortimer warned anyone who may be interested in a buying a new property on one of the new estates being built around Lynn to ensure that their solicitor holds back at least £3,000 in retention money.
This money is put to one side to be used if the developer goes into liquidation or the roads, kerbs or lighting are not completed.
He said: “I do not want to see residents having to go through the same problems on other estates.
“I want people to request that retention monies are taken out of their overall sums of money they are paying for their houses.”