This so-called Section 106 money is a premium that planning applications can be asked to pay if their proposals are likely to have a significant impact on the surrounding area – it can see, by way of example, major developers asked to pay for facilities to support a large new housing estate.
Yet, as it is the local authorities that set the criteria, presumably planners only ask for funding for schemes that are deemed to be necessary and in the public interest? If so, it’s all the more difficult for this ‘community cash’ to be allowed to pile up when so many local amenities, and roads, are struggling to cope with a burgeoning population.
That said, it remains to be seen whether Leeds Council will be successful in using its outstanding money, which is said to total £8m from the past five years, to protect next year’s budget from planned cuts.
This was not the original intention of the Section 106 scheme and it potentially opens up the possibility of developers being able to ‘buy’ planning consent in order to help local councils with their financial management. It would set a dangerous and unwise precedent.
As such, the greater onus should be on local authorities and planning applicants working together to ensure that major new developments are built in tandem with health, education and community facilities from the outset so that local services can withstand increased usage.