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Developers must plug £345m gap
7:40am Monday 11th March 2013 in News
SWINDON has an estimated £345m funding gap for key infrastructure needed to support an extra 22,000 homes and 19,000 jobs over the next 13 years – and Swindon Council says it’s the responsibility of developers to plug it.
The council says to maintain housing growth in line with economic forecasts and population increases, and to limit development on greenfield land, it must earmark enough housing land for 22,000 new homes and 77.5hectares of additional employment land between 2011 and 2026.
The council’s infrastructure delivery plan (IDP) costs the total infrastructure needed for this growth at £822m, or £1.38bn including that associated with affordable housing. Infrastructure includes highways, schools, community centres, and open spaces.
However there is still a £345m funding gap after factoring in some £142.8m anticipated from developers’ contributions, £12.6m of council funding, and a further £321.6m from other sources, such as utility companies and public sector bodies.
Coun Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said the onus was on developers to prove they had secured sufficient funds from public and other sources, and said the Government would have to contribute if it was so keen for development in Swindon.
Otherwise, he said the planning committee could use the IDP as grounds to reject a planning application, but admitted there were “no guarantees” that a development would definitely be stopped if the infrastructure cash was not there.
He said: “By 2026 the shortfall must be covered by developers or the Government otherwise development simply will not take place. Planning applications can, and should, be refused if the necessary infrastructure to mitigate their impact are not provided, and that requirement is clearly set out for everyone to see in the infrastructure delivery plan.
“This upfront and transparent approach should be supported by every resident, however sceptical they might be, because it is the right thing to do and only allows development on our terms. We must learn from the mistakes of our predecessors in the late 1990s and not repeat them over the next 15 years.”
He said the £100m Purton-Iffley Relief Road, the Thamesdown Drive extension, was not included in the IDP because the document focuses on infrastructure required for new development, adding that the proposed route is protected in the plan and MPs are lobbying Government for funding.
Les Durrant, managing director and chairman of planning consultant DPDS Cons- ulting, in Old Town, which has been involved in Wichelstowe and Ridgeway Farm, said he expected the shortfall to reduce as the costs were refined.
He said: “My guess is developers would try to drive these costs down as they drill down into the total. With some of the improvement schemes, they will prune out some of non-essential items. Everyone is going to A, prioritise, and B, find more cost-effective solutions.”
Coun Brian Osbourn, chairman of Covingham Parish Council, which is concerned about the knock-on effects from the planned Eastern Villages, said he was concerned the developers would build without the infrastructure.
He said: “It’s not coming from the Government; it’s not coming from the borough, it’s supposed to come from developers. Can you see the developer paying that sort of money out? I personally cannot.”