Change to planning guidelines means less cash for communities with small new-builds
Sites with a few homes will escape demand for neighbourhood contributions

Changes in government guidance on what councils can ask small developers to pay for community benefits are set to hit the provision of open spaces, sports and play areas and even education upgrades in East Devon.

Until recently, anyone who wanted to build an estate of new homes was required to offset the impact the new households would have on existing amenities by making a ‘Section 106’ financial contribution towards improvements.

But changes announced by the Government at the beginning of December mean that East Devon District Council and other affected planning authorities will no longer be able to collect play and sport contributions on residential developments of less than ten units in Exmouth, Honiton, Seaton and Sidmouth and less than six units in the rest of the district. Education contributions are affected in the same way.

Burden

The Government has introduced this change to reduce the financial burden of these obligations on small-scale developments to encourage builders to get building. The different trigger-points based on house numbers are intended to differentiate between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ areas.

The result of this change in guidance is that affected councils can no longer require builders of small-scale developments to make payments for amenities designed to offset the impact that the extra homes will place on local infrastructure.

There is still a presumption that permission will be granted without this amenity contribution so long as the development is acceptable from a planning perspective in all other respects.

Councillor Helen Parr, Chairman of East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee, said: “We expect this change to result in a significant loss of funding for infrastructure in our communities while developments that place extra demands on infrastructure will continue to be built. Unfortunately there is very little we can do about this change since the strong objections that we voiced during the consultation on this matter have not been heeded”.

Contributions towards mitigating the impact of development on the Exe Estuary and Pebblebed Heaths can still be secured, as these are protected under EU legislation.

No power

The district council’s planning teams are now checking all live applications that fit the profile of the new guidance and where appropriate will be removing the requirement for contributions towards open space facilities. The council does not propose to re-consult on these changes since it has no power to oppose them.

East Devon is not alone in having to deal with the new situation, as this national guidance affects all other local planning authorities to a lesser or greater extent.

The changes will have some impact on East Devon’s draft Local Plan because the council had proposed that all new residential developments should contribute towards the provision of affordable housing through a policy in the new plan.

The same six or ten-home trigger-points just announced also apply to affordable housing and so this approach will no longer be possible. The implications of this are currently being considered as changes may need to be made to the draft Local Plan currently being examined by an Inspector.