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Cheshire East is aiming to make S106 agreements more flexible after a damning internal audit report revealed millions of pounds had not been allocated to agreed schemes, writes Belinda Ryan.

S106 agreements are contracts between the council and developers to secure financial or other contributions to mitigate the impact of new housing developments.

Such agreements may include money towards education to fund additional school places needed when new homes are built.

The money could also be allocated for highways schemes required to mitigate the impact of a development.

Jane Gowing, interim director of planning, updated the audit and governance committee on the progress made on managing and monitoring arrangements for S106 funding, following September’s highly critical audit.

Ms Gowing said another experienced member of staff had been recruited to help with the workload.

Cllr Edwards said: “My experience in the past, is they’ve [S106 agreements] had to be interpreted very, very rigidly and that has sometimes prevented the positive use of, certainly, qwcommunity benefit funds for the community.

“Can they be worded sufficiently flexibly to use all the funds that are available?”

Ms Gowing said she has had discussions with legal colleagues to make future agreements more flexible.

She told the committee there were three key legal tests an agreement had to meet in every circumstance “however, there are some flexibilities that we are looking to use where appropriate”.

She gave an example where an agreement might have been made a number of years ago for a roundabout to mitigate the impact of a development.

“But if that scheme doesn’t start on site for four or five years and other works have happened in the vicinity in that intervening time, it might be something slightly different that’s needed today,” she said.

“It might be pedestrian crossings instead, which will still meet that legal test, but we’re then prevented from doing it because that wording was so specific in the first instance.”

With reference to why some developers’ cash might not be used for many years, the interim planning boss said this was often the case for highways schemes in particular.

“Where large sums of money are pooled to deliver larger infrastructure, that would be an expectation,” she added.

“In addition to that, planning permission is often granted and lasts for three, sometimes five years, so there will be big delay from securing the agreement to actually securing it in the council’s bank, and then securing delivery on the ground.”

One Comment

  1. Chris Moorhouse says:

    Working with many Councils I have used Sect 106 money to provide hundreds of affordable rented properties. This is obviously an Officer responsibility for this failure. Yet another bad news story. How many more before the end of 2023? What will 2024 reveal?

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