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Council failing to ensure that developers pay their dues

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But according to the Liberal Democrats, an unpublished audit carried out earlier this year found that out of 6 Planning applications that were looked at where Section 106 money was due, 4 did not have a signed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.”

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