PLANNERS must not let developers hard-luck stories in a slow housing market deter them from insisting on full contributions to infrastructure projects, senior councillors warned last week. Councillor Jill Tuck, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, to
PLANNERS must not let developers' hard-luck stories in a slow housing market deter them from insisting on full contributions to infrastructure projects, senior councillors warned last week.
Councillor Jill Tuck, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, told the board of Cambridgeshire Horizons - the company set up to deliver infrastructure to support 50,000 new homes in the Cambridge sub-region - that it would be a big mistake to cut back on expectations of developer contributions.
Under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, councils enter into legally binding agreements with developers to pay for or provide infrastructure improvements to compensate for the extra burden new residents impose on services - such as roads, schools, open space, affordable housing and social services.
Huntingdonshire District Council's leader, Councillor Ian Bates, agreed with the need to hold firm. "We have committed ourselves to money up front," he said.
But the board accepted that there would be circumstances in which the public purse had to meet the initial cost of infrastructure provision, with house-builders paying over the S106 money as they sold homes.
Horizons chief executive Alex Plant told the board: "In looking at major developments such as Northstowe, while maintaining the same quality demands, there is merit in looking at the timing [of payments].
"Developers have a lot of up-front costs before they get any return, so the current cost of credit could delay projects. We could delay requiring payments in return for a greater contribution from developers down the line," he added. "It's worthwhile continuing to explore these issues."
Cllr Tuck said she had every sympathy with that view, but there were risks. There would need to be a convincing business case for such deferred payments, she insisted. Bonds should be put in place.
Developers' representative Steve Sillery said there was not an absolute requirement to insist on 40 per cent of new homes on large developments being provided as 'affordable'. "There's a viability issue case by case," he added.
Nonetheless, 40 per cent was an aspiration that planners should hold to, said South Cambridgeshire's Councillor David Bard.
It might be possibly to get slightly more than that from some developments, balanced by slightly less from others, chairman Sir David Trippier opined.