Major developers in Luton may not be legally held to paying money owed to the Council due to faults in procedure, according to a Liberal Democrat Councillor.
Developers who make planning applications that have an effect on a local area are often asked by the Council’s Development Control Committee, following negotiation with Planning Officers, to make a contribution to the Council.
The contributions – called Section 106 payments – are made in relation to the effect any new development will have on an area, in terms of environmental factors such as a need for traffic calming; infrastructure such as new roads being needed; or (for major housing developments) as a contribution towards the need for extra school places.
But according to the Liberal Democrats, an unpublished audit carried out earlier this year found that out of 6 Planning applications that were looked at where Section 106 money was due, 4 did not have a signed legal agreement in place.
Liberal Democrats say this puts the Council in a weak position in terms of being able to insist on the agreed monies being paid over. Lib Dem Councillor Martin Pantling comments:
“ If the Audit is anything to go by, it seems about two-thirds of planning applications that were approved subject to the developer making appropriate Section 106 contributions did not have a signed legal agreement in place. But development was underway in all those cases.
“ Given the size of some contributions that do get made, we could be talking about very large sums of money that the Council has not secured through a proper signed agreement.
“ Labour must come clean on how much money was actually at stake at the time of the Audit, and say which developers have still not signed a legal Section 106 agreement.
“ We must hope swift action was taken to get agreements signed after this problem was discovered, but if not there could still be a lot of money at risk. Developers must be made to pay their proper dues to the community if they are to go ahead with any grand schemes.”