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Anger at £2.7m cut in developer homes cash
9:20am Tuesday 9th October 2012 in News
AN argument has erupted over a cut in the money a developer has to pay for a site in West Swindon.
Swindon’s Labour leader Jim Grant has attacked a proposal to slash the amount of Section 106 money developers have to pay for the Moredon Bridge Development by £2.7m.
Section 106 money is money that developers of larger sites pay to the council to reduce the impact of the development, which is agreed when planning permission is granted.
The Moredon Bridge Develop-ment, which is within Wiltshire Council’s boundary, consists of 200 homes on the land adjoining Sparcells, which was granted permission on appeal in 2009.
Originally it had been agreed that the developers would pay £3.8m to help with local infrastructure, but as a result of a change in circumstances, the developer and Wiltshire Council have agreed that the best way forward is to renegotiate the package to just over £1m.
Swindon Council’s planning committee has the final say over whether to sanction the proposed reduction in S106 contributions at tonight’s planning committee meeting.
Councillor Grant said he was upset to see so much money which could have gone into local infrastructure lost.
He said: “I am utterly astonished that the council is proposing to let the housing developer get away with not paying what they agreed in what I assume is a legally binding agreement. This isn’t small change but £2.7m worth of money that Swindon will be losing out on that should be mitigating the effects of this housing development.
“Because the developers haven’t paid what they should have by now this development has already led to increased traffic on Swindon’s roads, including on roads in my own ward.The developers simply shouldn’t be getting away with this.
“It will send a message to other housing developers that it is okay for them to shirk from their responsibilities and not pay for the infrastructure that needs to accompany these developments.”
But council leader Rod Bluh rubbished the complaint and said that the council no longer need as much money to counter the effects of the development.
He said: “This issue is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, because the development is in their area, and they negotiated the original S106 agreement which has since been disputed by the developer.
“To say that Swindon Borough Council is in some way at fault in any of what has happened is just nonsense.
“Elected members of Swindon’s cross-party planning committee will decide whether to ask Wiltshire Council to negotiate just over £1m for us in Swindon, to be spent in Swindon.
“There’s a simple explanation why this is less than the original £2.7m – circumstances have changed massively since the first agreement was negotiated and we don’t need as much money to mitigate the effects of the development.”
A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “The government has advised councils to ensure section 106 payments must be fair and reasonable. Since the original agreement in 2009, the justification for a number of the contributions may have changed considerably.
“Because of this, we have been discussing the contributions with the developer for some time. Following these discussions, the developer requested we asked Swindon Council check the contributions are still appropriate based on the current situation. We are waiting for a decision from Swindon Council before we discuss further with the developer.”
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