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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 31/03/2008
PROPOSED PLANNING INFRASTRUCTURE CONTRIBUTIONS SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING DOCUMENT (SPD)



Summary & Purpose
The purpose of this report is to recommend the formal adoption of the draft Planning Infrastructure Contributions SPD, which will form part of the Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF). The SPD is an evolution of the Section 106 Agreements Code of Practice that was produced as part of the Surrey Planning Collaboration Project.

APPENDIX F
Waverley Borough Council
environment leisure overview and scrutiny
31st March 2008

Title:
PROPOSED PLANNING INFRASTRUCTURE CONTRIBUTIONS SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING DOCUMENT (SPD)
[Portfolio Holder: Mr B Ellis]
[Wards Affected: All]


Summary and purpose:

The purpose of this report is to recommend the formal adoption of the draft Planning Infrastructure Contributions SPD, which will form part of the Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF). The SPD is an evolution of the Section 106 Agreements Code of Practice that was produced as part of the Surrey Planning Collaboration Project.


Environmental implications:

Implementation of the proposed SPD should have positive environmental benefits, as the intention is to ensure that even small-scale developments make a contribution to mitigating their impact on local services and infrastructure

Social / community implications:

Implementation of the proposed SPD should have positive social/community benefits, as the intention is to ensure that even small-scale developments make a contribution to mitigating their impact on local services and infrastructure

E-Government implications:

The intention is to make full use of the web site as a means of publicising the adoption of the SPD, and to inform consultees of this by email.

Resource and legal implications:

The production of the SPD, including any necessary consultation material, will be managed within existing resources. Where possible, use will be made of the collaborative work carried out by various Surrey districts in developing the original Code of Practice.

Subject to Council approval, the aim is to adopt the proposed SPD in April 2008. There will be resource implications in terms of managing the assessment of the associated legal agreements and managing and monitoring the financial contributions that are received. The total charges include an allowance for the monitoring costs and also legal costs.



Background

Early in 2006, the 11 Surrey districts, together with the County Council, started a collaboration project under the guidance of the Planning Advisory Service and the 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 Circular 05/2005, the development of more robust S106 practices was a priority for 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'.

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”.

In June 2006, during the preparation of the Code of Practice, the Collaboration Project Group dealing with this consulted with local developers drawn from within each participating local authority area. The Project Group also took Counsel’s advice on the proposed Code of Practice, including the model legal agreement that developers would be expected to submit with their planning applications.

The Code of Practice was aimed particularly at securing contributions from small-scale developments, which currently make little or no contribution to mitigating their impacts on local services and infrastructure. Whilst individually each small scheme may have a relatively small impact, the cumulative impact of a number of small schemes is much more significant. Moreover, much of the new development in Waverley is relatively small in scale.

The Code of Practice that was produced by the Project Group sought contributions from new residential and commercial developments to a range of county and district level services, including transportation, education, leisure/recreation and community facilities.

Consideration by the Council in March 2007

In March 2007 the Council considered a report relating to the proposed Code of Practice. It was resolved that the Council would start to apply the Code to all new planning applications submitted from 1st July 2007. This was to be in advance of the longer-term aim of converting the Code into a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) as part of the LDF. However, 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. There was also a concern that the Council had not given adequate notice of the proposed implementation of the Code.

In response to these concerns the decision was made to delay implementation of the Code until 1st November 2007 and, in the meantime, the Council wrote to the agents making them aware of the proposed implementation date and giving them the opportunity to make comments on the Code if they wished.

Some further concerns were raised and, although the Collaboration Project Group had sought Counsel’s advice in the draft Code, the Council’s own legal advice recommended against implementing the Code as originally proposed. This was partly in response to a concern about the consultation, but also because, in some areas, the specific evidence justifying some of the proposed charges, and the arrangements for managing and releasing the contributions, were not considered to be adequate.

At the Executive meeting in October 2007, Members noted the proposal to implement the Code as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), with the aim of implementation in April 2008. Subsequently, in December, the Executive approved the draft SPD as the basis for consultation.

The Consultation Process

The draft SPD was put for consultation between 4th January and 15th February 2008. Over 600 developers, agents and statutory consultees were invited to comment. All the relevant information was made available on the Council’s website. Some 28 different companies and organisations responded, which has amounted to over 200 individual comments on all aspects of the SPD. This has been documented in the form on a schedule which exceeds 100 pages, with each comment, response and action listed. This schedule has not been included as annexe due to its considerable size, but has been included as a background paper and is available for Members on their intranet pages. A paper copy is available in the Members Room. However, the main concerns expressed by objectors have been summarised in this report, together with Officers responses. A copy of the draft SPD with the proposed amendments shown as tracked items is attached to this report as Annexe 1.

A list of Frequently Asked Questions for the website is being produced using questions from the consultation process, a recent Agents Forum held during the consultation period and a Waverley Planning Officers’ forum. These will be made available on the Council’s website, and the list will be updated as experience is gained from using the tariff system.

Main Issues arising from the Consultation

Non – Conformity with Government Guidance GOSE has confirmed that the approach outlined in the SPD would appear to be consistent with national policy as set out in ODPM Circular 05/2005. The production of this SPD is included within Waverley’s Local Development Scheme which has also been approved by GOSE. Work on this SPD began in 2006, and is in accordance with nationally recommended best practice. The document acknowledges that new Government legislation is likely to be adopted , and this intention provides further support for the approach set out in this draft SPD. The Panel's Report on the South East Plan (29th August 2007) 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 in Surrey, which aimed to do two things in advance of the main LDF process, namely, to standardize 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.

No fundamental changes are proposed in respect of these comments.

It has also been suggested that the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) associated with this SPD has not been produced in accordance with relevant guidance/legislation. In particular, it is suggested that the SA for this SPD should have included the production of a specific SA Scoping Report. In producing the SA, officers took the view that it was not necessary to produce a dedicated Scoping Report. This was because an SA Scoping Report for the new Core Strategy was produced and consulted on in 2007. Officers took the view that the Core Strategy SA Scoping Report was sufficient for the SPD because the scope of SA issues relevant to the Core Strategy also covered the scope of SA issues relevant to this SPD. However, in the light of these comments, officers are taking further advice on this, and an oral report will be made.

Justification for the charges The County Council has supplied a schedule of approved Local Transport schemes within Waverley for schemes scheduled between 2009 and 2010. These include cycle links, local safety initiatives, road crossings, traffic management and calming and walking initiatives. The list will be updated on an ongoing process to reflect revisions to scheme proposals. It has also provided a similar list of spending priorities for the five Waverley libraries, to include mobile services, and an overview of schools in the Borough, and an indication of the areas of pressure on schools. It is the intention of both the County Council and Waverley that this process is transparent, and it will ensure that contributors will be able to see how and where their money is spent.

The County Council projects are well evidenced, and a schedule of approved Waverley leisure-related schemes has been provided as part of the document. These are evidenced through the recent leisure surveys referenced in the draft SPD. There are a number of desirable environmental improvement schemes that were proposed by officers in the early stages of the budget setting process that were not able to go forward to the final capital programme due to insufficient funds being available. These would be reconsidered in the light of the availability of new infrastructure contributions. In addition, the Council's funding for the long-standing Community Partnerships Fund, which provides funds for partnership community projects throughout the Borough, ends after the 2007-08 year and the Council has suspended future rounds of this scheme. The infrastructure contributions could enable important projects to be delivered in partnership with community organisations in the future which would also lever in high levels of external funding.

Requests for exemptions from the tariff Requests for other beneficiaries to be included
The first review of the contributions tariff will need to be carried out in the light of what is proposed in the Government’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), and thereafter it will be regularly reviewed and updated. This document represents Waverley’s first attempt at producing comprehensive advice on how the system will be operated. The issues of healthcare and higher education will be noted for the first review.

Factual changes, such as occupancy rates and the need to amend the tariffs to reflect No fundamental changes are proposed in respect of these comments, but clarification should be given about the necessary factual changes.

Viability There is no evidence for this assertion. Clearly the concern is one the Council needs to be mindful of. But experience elsewhere has not shown this to be a significant problem and the tariff levels have been benchmarked against those at similar authorities in the Home Counties with similar property markets. As part of the evidence for the LDF Core Strategy Issues and Options, consultants have been employed to assess the potential impact on viability resulting from different options for the policies on affordable housing (percentages, thresholds etc.) This will include taking account of the additional impact of this SPD in such cases. In relation to smaller schemes it should also be remembered that they do not have to provide affordable housing, unlike larger schemes where this has been routine in addition to infrastructure payments. The burdens are still, therefore, relatively small on smaller schemes compared to the financial rewards for the applicant and uplift in land value. Local and National Guidance already allows for the collection of planning contributions from developers, and this SPD is seeking to formalise and regularise the situation.

Concerns that the monitoring fee and legal fees are excessive or not required The Legal Fees have been calculated as a reasonable pre estimate of the cost of the involvement of the Council legal officers in approving/drafting these Obligations/Agreements and is based on considerable experience with these documents over the years. A flat fee rather than a fee on a case-by-case basis has been chosen for simplicity, consistency and transparency.

Questions raised by one of the Members
Secondly, a question is raised regarding the justification for exempting affordable housing from the tariff. This is also a matter that has been raised in other representations. Again, this is addressed in the document setting out the basis for calculating the charges (paragraph 3.2). In essence, the Collaboration Group took the view that provision of affordable housing itself already impacts on overall development costs. Provision of affordable housing is a key local priority and the concern was that adding the tariff to the affordable housing could be a disincentive to deliver affordable housing. In addition, the fact that the affordable housing element of a scheme might be exempt does, to some extent, counter the argument put forward in other representations that the scheme as a whole will adversely affect development viability. This is, however, one element of the SPD that should be kept under review.

The other two questions relate to detailed matters concerning the transport charges in the scheme. Although the documents contain quite a detailed explanation and justification for the transport charges, officers have referred these questions to Surrey County Highways. An oral report will be made on the response from the Highway Authority.

Progress made by other Surrey Districts

Elmbridge Borough and Reigate and Banstead are also proposing to adopt their SPD in April. Epsom and Ewell anticipate adoption of an SPD in June 2008. Mole Valley and Runnymede are operating a tariff scheme based on the Code. Guildford Borough already operate a non-tariff structure SPD. Woking are working on an SPD, and Spelthorne, Surrey Heath and Tandridge do not intend to introduce a Code or an SPD at this stage.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee forward any comments to the Executive.

Background Papers (DoP&D)

(as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Jennie Falconer Telephone: 01483 523294

E-mail: jfalconer@waverley.gov.uk



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