‘I always said you should never trust a bank with property, or a property developer with money,” says Peter Rees a former senior planning officer.
Across the country, authorities including Shepway, have allowed planning policies to be continually flouted, affordable housing quotas to be waived, height limits breached, the interests of residents endlessly trampled. We are replacing homes with investment units, to be sold as second homes, substituting community for vacancy. The more we build, the more our towns and villages are emptied, producing increasing areas where the lights might never even be switched on.
We may rant and rage against ugly additions to the skyline in Shepway but what of the mechanisms that are allowing it to happen? How did it come to this?
The principal reason can be traced to the fact that awarding planning permission in the UK comes down to a Faustian pact. If the devil is in the detail, then the detail is s106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a clause which formalised “planning gain”, making it in the local authorities’ interests to allow schemes to balloon beyond all reason, in the hope of creaming off the fat of developers’ profits for the public good.
A point in case here in Shepway is Mackeson Square in Hythe
Cllr Ashley Tanton Green Party,
used the FOI system to good effect and discovered ‘The project has been funded entirely by Sainsbury’s via their section 106 contributions. The total allocated to the project was £65,000 plus a small contingency.
A report obtained using a Freedom of Information request shows that the project has been delivered for a total of £50,854.39 including VAT. This figure includes project costs for the remainder of the current financial year too. This is an underspend of just over £14,000.’
So where’s the other £14,000, who has creamed off the fat?
How many other s106’s have come in on the the underspend side? Has it all been spent on what it was supposed to be, and have Shepway District Council kept the underspend and put it in their reserves?
Remember people there have been hundreds of these if not a few thousand s106’s over the last 26 years, since s106 were introduced granted across Shepway.
When the accounts are open to public inspection shortly, we, you can find out. Well, at least for the s106’s in 2015/16. Otherwise it is an FOI like the good Cllr of Hythe.