Kirklees missing out on developer cash

Kirklees missing out on developer cash
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

MILLIONS of pounds is sitting in a council’s bank account ready to be spent on improvements across the borough.

The cash, known as Section 106 money, is paid by developers as part of agreements when building housing or commercial sites.

In Kirklees a whopping £6m remains unspent.

However the money HAS been allocated towards infrastructure such as schools and play areas.

Some of it goes straight to schools to mitigate the cost of extra pupils.

Councillors and officers debated how the money could and should be spent as part of a review of the Section 106 process.

There has been frustration in the past as money raised from large-scale housing developments has not been ring-fenced for those specific areas.

Instead it has often been spent elsewhere in the borough.

And the council has come under fire for failing to collect some monies and allowing developers not to pay what they were contracted to deliver.

Hopton Primary School in Mirfield is owed more than £87,000 by a housing developer that has breached its legal agreement.

The council is taking legal action to recover the cash from developer Lea Croft Residential.

However the council said such failures were rare, with just three examples in the last 20 years.

Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) suggested making developers pay such money up front and in advance of the start of building work to prevent reneging on contracts.

He added that the message to developers was “if you don’t pay, you don’t build.”

The council’s head of planning, Mathias Franklin, said Section 106 agreements were “a standard way” of letting development happen. And he doubted the authority would be able to secure all payments up front.

He added: “It’s the planning authority’s role to bring in the money, to secure the money and to monitor the obligations and the developments.

“The council as an organisation is responsible for the implementation of that money. I think developers do what they are asked as a general rule.”

Speaking after a recent scrutiny panel  meeting Coun Bolt expressed ongoing frustrations that some schools – mainly academies not under local authority control – were missing out on Section 106 money, which he said was unfair.

“In a specific instance more than £80,000 was lost to schools in Mirfield. I totally reject the council’s position that it was due to the financial insolvency of the developer because at the time the money was collected the developer was still solvent and building houses. The situation is flawed. Where is the responsibility?

“Why should schools in Mirfield miss out because of the failure of the council?

“Whether it’s the council in general, the service in particular or the cabinet member for responsibility, somebody should be paying that £87,000.”

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