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Council seeks best S106 deal to benefit community

Fenland District Council has assured the public it is working hard to secure the right level of community contributions should the 95-home development go ahead at Estover in March.

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As with all building developments which could place extra demand and pressures on the local area, the authority can require Section 106 (S106) contributions from developers to secure a range of infrastructure and community facilities needed to support the new development and mitigate its impact.

For example, new homes can mean more demand for school places and can add traffic to the road system.

In the case of Estover, the level of s106 contributions being sought from developer St John's College, Cambridge, has been set following a viability assessment which has established the total amount. It is based on the financial viability of the development, rather than the 'wealth' of the developer.

The allocation of the total s106 monies to different beneficiary areas, such as health, education and transport, has recently been completed based on consultation responses submitted on the planning application.

If one of these beneficiaries comes forward with a new call on the s106 pot - such as the NHS which is now requesting more funding for healthcare in March - it doesn't mean the pot gets any bigger; it just means the total pot has to be shared out differently.

In such circumstances planning officers have no discretion to increase the required contribution from a developer. Officers have consequently had to revisit the way in which the Estover pot can be divided between the various beneficiaries and decided that, on balance, the NHS requirement should take priority over some other areas.

Ultimately, however, Members of the Planning Committee will decide how the pot should be distributed based on the different calls upon it, should planning permission be granted.

Sometimes schemes are not viable in Fenland because of the housing market. For example, build costs can be the same as in other areas, but the sale prices in Fenland are lower - meaning smaller profit margins and triggering viability thresholds established by government.

The Council is just as frustrated as residents that not all s106 commitments can be met at Estover or other sites, however, it will continue to work with developers to secure as many contributions as is legally possible, bringing benefits and prosperity to the Fenland area.

Article added: April 12, 2018