The recent debate about housing has uncovered some interesting nuances. One of these is the interesting subject of Section 106 payments. They are a way of developers paying the local authority money to mitigate the impact of affordable housing developments. For example most development will require additional infrastructure for transport and education. In particular Section 106 is intended to support the development of affordable housing and so it can specify obligations on the developer. In summary they are a way of making proposals acceptable. The restrictions on using Section 106 are that the agreements relate directly to the development, are fair and in proportion, and are necessary to make the development work.
Similar thing have happened for years when major developments have been proposed. In addition to the planned development the District Council has made conditions that the developer does other things in return for their consent. A good recent example was the notorious footpath as part of the agreement with Cedar House Investment over Waterside Park. Another was the money involved in the Sainsbury development.
There will be a lot of money moving around with the new housing projects and it is very important we keep track of where and when this is spent. Remember this is the money which is necessary to make the plans acceptable in Ashbourne and therefore every single penny of it should be traceable and accounted for in the town. The reason I make this point is that the money goes to the District Council and unless they keep it separate and allocate it it could get lost into some general funds which benefit the whole District. The same applies to all the Section 106 monies for all the housing across the area because they will each have their own characteristics and needs.
Just how much money is involved has been revealed by the Neighbourhood Team who have been investigating with DDDC:
Money for Education
- Redevelopment of former St Oswald’s Hospital £56,681
- Land at Willow Meadow Farm £171,761
- Land at Lodge Farm Chase £194,248 (incl. £91,195 primary)
- Land at Hillside Farm £760,345 (incl. £326,347 secondary; £284,975 primary)
Money associated with Housing
- Willow Meadow Farm £508,484
- Lodge Farm £992.165
- Hillside Farm £508.484
This is a lot of money for capital investment. If it is spent wisely we can accommodate the newcomers to the town but also begin to address some of the long standing problems in the town which will take a lot of money to address – such as traffic and parking capacity. There can be a real and long-lasting benefit of the additional housing in Ashbourne. We just have to make sure that the slippery developers don’t try and avoid their obligations (there are already “consultants” appearing offering to help them by claiming it would impact their profit margin too severely) and that we get our fair share. Remember this is also just the start and the Neighbourhood Plan website will be updated with new numbers as they are known. They don’t include the figures from the Airfield development.
It will be also interesting to see where all previous money was spent! There was some BBC research published in January that said many local authorities are holding the funds and, by failing to spend the money in time, have no alternative but to return it to the developer http://www.propertyreporter.co.uk/view.asp?ID=12903. Local authorities are currently estimated to be holding £1.5 billion of Section 106 money.