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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 02/10/2007
Surrey Collaboration Project



APPENDIX G
Waverley Borough Council

eXECUTIVE - 2ND OCTOBER 2007

Title:
SURREY COLLABORATION PROJECT –
SECTION 106 AGREEMENTS CODE OF PRACTICE
[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and purpose:

This Code of Practice was prepared as part of the Collaboration Project amongst the 11 Surrey Districts and Surrey County Council. Its purpose is to set out common practice and procedures for capturing infrastructure improvements across the Surrey districts in accordance with adopted policies and recommended best practice. It is suggested that Districts will use it as an interim administrative measure and eventually incorporate the work into a Supplementary Planning Document.

The principal innovation is the codifying of certain infrastructure contributions for smaller ‘windfall’ schemes, e.g. up to 14 dwellings. Previously, these have escaped any charges in Surrey, resulting in a significant shortfall in potential contributions to public services.

Members gave approval in April 2007 for the implementation of the Code from July 1st, subject to any minor changes being made by the Collaboration Group. However, when the Code was discussed at a Waverley Planning Agents Forum in May, those agents attending were of the view that there had not been adequate consultation by the Collaboration Group. A targeted consultation exercise of 38 nominated agents across the County had taken place in June and October 2006; however, the consensus was that this had not been wide enough. At the time it was felt that implementation should be delayed in Waverley until 1st November. However, it may be advisable to move the implementation date to 1st April 2008.
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Environmental implications:
Some environmental stakeholders would be beneficiaries

Social / community implications:
It is likely that there will be many positive social/ community implications

E-Government implications:
No direct e-government implications.

Resource and legal implications:
It is anticipated that this policy will generate a significant level of funding for investment in infrastructure and services within the Borough. Officers will develop a process for identifying projects and areas where expenditure is needed to ensure that funds are utilised appropriately. This process will also include the control of monies due to be spent by partner organisations such as Surrey County Council, and it will propose arrangements for monitoring and reporting. It is also essential that a robust legal procedural framework is established.
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1. Background

1.1 Early in 2006 the 11 Surrey districts together with the County Council started a collaboration project under the guidance of the Planning Advisory Service Improvement and Development Agency. A number of areas for collaboration work were investigated and it soon became apparent that as a result of advice in 05/2005 the development of more robust S106 practices was a priority at most districts. A specific collaboration project was set up to develop what eventually became known as the 'Code of Practice for Planning Obligations and Infrastructure Provision in Surrey'.

1.2 The work was also informed by two pieces of national advice published in August 2006: the Department of Communities and Local Government’s Best Practice Guidance, and the Audit Commission's Securing Community Benefits Through The Planning Process.

1.3 The work was divided up into three sub-projects. First, a team was tasked with engaging with developers and potential beneficiaries to establish the appropriate levels of contribution, and which functions should benefit. This included benchmarking with other similar home-counties districts that had already adopted more robust regimes for infrastructure contributions to ensure that appropriate and consistent levels of contribution were achieved.

1.4 A second team was tasked with working out the practicalities of collecting contributions and the optimum methodology. Again this took account of engagement with developers, the best practice recorded in documents such as the Audit Commission advice, and benchmarking with authorities that were already successful in collecting significant levels of funding for infrastructure and services.

1.5 A third team was tasked with developing a monitoring regime. This would have to ensure that all due funds were collected properly and that the beneficiaries were aware of the levels of funding available in particular localities. It would also have to ensure that the beneficiaries would report regularly on the spending programmes that were underway, and in particular that these programmes identified additional infrastructure spending for a locality over and above the normal public sector spending.

2. Developers Consultation

2.1 In a letter to local developers in June 2006 the following were summarised as the project aims:

To introduce a common s106 methodology for funding infrastructure across the Surrey districts as soon as possible – to be ready for use in December 2006.
To be a tariff based system applicable to both small and larger developments.
To be a system that is: wide in scope – based on identified needs; transparent methodology; responsive / flexible to local context.
The system to be devised for the County area as a whole – to aid with consistency and predictability for developers and funders.
To use Structure Plan policy DN1 as the anchor – but to provide the basis for districts to prepare DPD/SPD to amplify and develop policy.
To prepare a list of identified infrastructure requirements – both at the County and local levels
List of ‘Beneficiaries’ that would qualify for tariff in each district
Calculations/Formulae for standard payments in each case
Standard system for ensuring calculations/formulae are updated
Standard method for collecting payments for each district to be bolted on to existing DC process
Standard system for monitoring delivery and ensuring benefits/tariffs are spent in each district
Improved transparency and partnership working to achieve benefits
Delivery package allowing consistent implementation in each District

2.2 This letter was sent to 38 developers or their representatives who have been operating regularly in Surrey in recent years.

2.3 Apart from setting out the project aims the consultation letter also asked the following:

2.4 Five responses were received.

2.5 A subsequent consultation with the same developers took place in October 2006. This sought views on the first draft of the code - including broadly similar tariff levels to those in this draft SPD. One response was received.

2.6 Counsel’s advice was also been sought and incorporated into the Code of Practice.

2.7 When the implementation of the Code was discussed at a Waverley Planning Agents Forum in May 2007, those agents attending were of the view that there had not been adequate consultation by the Collaboration Group. The consensus was that the two previous consultations had not been wide enough. It was therefore decided that implementation should be delayed in Waverley until 1st November, and in the meantime agents have been made aware of the proposed implementation date and given the opportunity to make comments if they wish. Letters were sent out to all Agents who would normally be invited to the Forum, and several responses received. One in particular suggests that if the Code is implemented they will seek legal advice. Counsel’s advice was originally sought by the Collaboration Group, and this was incorporated into the Code of Practice before consultation took place in October 2006. However, the Council’s own legal advice recommends that further amendments are made to the Code to make it more robust.

2.8 At the same time it is proposed that work on preparing a Supplementary Planning Document be accelerated. This will give further weight to the scheme. The conversion of the Code to SPD will, as part of the normal process, involve several opportunities for further consultation with stakeholders and interested parties and will also be used to review how the Code is working, and to identify any practical problems with its use. A further report on this will be presented to the next meeting.



3. The South East Plan

3.1 In addition, in the Report on the South East Plan (29th August 2007) the Panel specifically welcomed “the positive work that is being done in Surrey on a joint tariff to help fund infrastructure provision”. It was encouraged by the progress that has been made by the Surrey authorities, and impressed by the lead given by Surrey County Council, which aimed to do two things in advance of the main LDF process, namely, to standardise administrative procedures across all district councils and, secondly, to set out tariffs for those types of infrastructure contributions already collected on an ad hoc basis that are suited to the approach. The Panel agreed that it is essential to achieve a transparent system of charging, a simple mechanism for collection and delivery of finance, and a system that is clear and predictable for developers, local authorities and infrastructure providers. In its view, the tariff approach represents a response to a problem that arises in other urban areas in the South East and therefore it considers that the Regional Spatial Strategy should give a regional steer. Accordingly it recommended that changes to Cross-Cutting Policy CC5 on Infrastructure and Implementation should include specific reference to the importance of planning authorities adopting a coordinated approach in order to deliver developer contributions towards the cost of infrastructure arising from the cumulative effect of small developments.

3.2 It also made a recommendation to amend London Fringe Policy LF5 by deleting the references to the contingent approach and the SRIF and changing its title to “Small Scale Site Tariff”.

3.3 It can therefore be seen that there is strong Central and Regional Government support for the approach taken by the Surrey Planning Collaboration Project in introducing the tariff approach endorsed by the Code of Practice.

Recommendation

That the changes to this progress report be noted, and that Members re-affirm their earlier support for implementation of the Code, with a target date of 1st April 2008.

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Background Papers (DoPD)

Government Circular 05/2005; DCLG Planning Obligations: Practice Guidance; Audit Commission 'Securing Benefits Through the Planning Process'
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CONTACT OFFICERS:

Names: J. A. Falconer Telephone: 01483 523294
E-mail: jfalconer@waverley.gov.uk


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