More than £90,000 outstanding on city centre flats block

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One of the sites highlighted by planners in Sheffield earlier this year as payment problems emerged was the Brewery Wharf apartments block, which was built on the site of a former industrial works.

The desirable building, which stands on the banks of the River Don close to the city centre, is now occupied, but a payment worth more than £90,000 is still outstanding under a Section 106 obligation.

If Sheffield Council had pursued a policy of attempting to claim against individual purchasers, the owners of each of the 81 flats could have been hit with an unexpected bill of £1,100, but they escaped.

At the time, councillors said they wanted to “show a human face” and could not condone holding buyers responsible for the defaults of developers.

While Sheffield Council has made that decision, other authorities in Yorkshire are still trying to decide what action they should take.

Campaigners who speak on the planning system said local authorities should not chase individuals for money owed by businesses, but said communities were short- changed as a result.

Tony Burton, director of Civic Voice, a national group which campaigns for community involvement in planning and development, said the figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post “highlighted a very important issue”.

He said: “We are very concerned if we are getting the developments but not the benefits for the area. It is important that local authorities hold developers to account and that they can’t get out of these obligations.

“It is, in our view, a result of bad writing and drafting of section 106 agreements. Councils need to be tougher and tighter in the way they draw these up and the way they involve local communities in drawing them up.

“At present, the process is far from transparent and there is no requirement to consult with the local communities which will be affected by the agreement or ask them what they want to see improved.

“We hope that measures being introduced under the Government’s new Localism Bill will address some of the problems, with the community infrastructure levy replacing some provisions of Section 106.

“That should allow councils to tell developers what they expect to see provided and when, meaning that communities aren’t left with arguments dragging on for months, if not years, over what is being provided.

“It is not acceptable that the bad side of the development takes place and the good side, be it an open space, restoration project or infrastructure scheme doesn’t happen. It leaves the community high and dry.

“A lot of what was promised under Section 106 agreements should have been demanded earlier in the projects, in other words the ‘trigger points’ for payment should have been brought forward to make sure these problems don’t arise.”

martin.slack@ypn.co.uk

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