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Malcolm Robinson

Councillor Robinson - S106

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I was challenged to explain S106 developer funding recently and I can now have a go.
Pretty complex subject and to get it right here is the latest government guidance:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/planning-obligations

Part of the question also related to what’s been achieved and what has it been spent on, in the last 3 years?

I’m going to presume new house building which has been started, completed or planned for, is what this question is about.
Obviously I can only comment specifically on the applications in my ward because I’ve spent quite a bit of time on them, usually onto NCC enforcement!

Taking the 14 new houses on Netherton Lane, there was no S106 funding applied for! Inexcusable in my view but that was before I became the NCC elected member and it did have to go to a planning inspector to overturn the original refusal. Even the planning inspector raised eye brows and mentioned the fact that no S106 funding had been applied for.

Onto the Broadoaks development now and again before my time but once again no S106 funding. Although only a Town Councillor at the time I did question this and the reason came back that adverse ground conditions mitigated the S106 funding. I made the argument that if that was the case then the community were paying for the work needed to overcome these adverse ground conditions seeing as no community funding was attached! Again inexcusable in my view!
There were some ‘affordable homes’ within the development which I believe have been passed to Bernicia for affordable rents. I have a real problem with the term ‘affordable’ because in my view they aren’t for the vast majority of our young people and I have argued that point at several planning meetings!

Now onto the proposed new housing on the land north of the Chesters. This has been at committee 3 times now and on each occasion I have voted against, one reason because of a lack of suitable S106 agreements. Again this scheme had been originally planned for before I became the NCC elected member but I now had the chance to sit on the committee and question it.

In the first outing for this permission I saw the original £3.4M (I think!) allocation for education had been reduced to £1.3M and there was no allocation for Health. Even the Sport and recreation allocation had been agreed to go down to East Bedlington? This I challenged and managed to change so we saw a £346,500 allocation for health and West Bedlington are now included in the sports and recreation funding.

” 7.77 Objectors have raised concerns regarding increased pressure on local services and infrastructure. This matter is addressed through the Section 106 Agreement that runs alongside the outline planning permission with contributions secured for education (£1,331,000), primary healthcare (£346,500), off-site sport/recreation (£229,000) and the strategic highway network (up to £155,000).”

The strategic highways contribution is going to a Highways England project at the Moorfarm roundabout at Cramlington? I did make the case that there were plenty of highways works needed around Bedlington but Highways England seem to be holding a gun to the head of Planners because in quite a lot of cases around the SE of the county this has become the norm and they will object unless its included? Maybe we should take a leaf out of their book!

Having spoken to our local health and educational professionals it seems the education allocation is almost entirely going to Special educational needs and as we have little if any it will go to Guidepost. The health contributions off this and others are being rounded up and our health centre will get a share of that? How much I don’t know.

At the second hearing I argued the point that the proposed development was actually outside our settlement boundary as well as the reduced S106 funding. The reply was that planners needed this development to show government an agreed land bank for new housing. This time I did manage to convince one other member to back my assertions and there were two objectors at committee this time.

This week reserved matters came before committee and I had asked planners specifically to make this happen.
The Town Council submitted objections and I wanted to examine the proposed site access.
Again planning law has to be understood because ONLY matters in the application could be discussed and debated. This severely restricts what could be brought up because outline permission and detailed permission had already been agreed by majority vote. This was really only about site layout and reserved matters.

There are some affordable units included……

“7.18 The level of affordable housing provision for this site has already been agreed as 15% under the terms of the Section 106 Agreement which runs alongside the outline planning permission.”

After a lengthy and pretty protracted questioning session the application was agreed with only my vote against, citing the loss of the original £2M in the S106 agreement as the main reason!

Immediately after the meeting I was told by a member of the public that he was shocked to see all the party political members voting for this apart from me after receiving a political leaflet saying I supported wholesale housing without adequate infrastructural funding. The opposite is actually the truth!

The only other sizeable application I know of is the 16 houses opposite West Lea on Netherton Lane and again I believe no S106 funding has been attached? Although this never came in front of any planning committee once I was aware I did challenge the lack of S106 funding.
I hope that answers the questions.

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