‘Dismay’ over council’s management of roads funding

View, Bucks County Council offices
View, Bucks County Council offices
  • Committee says council not doing enough to ensure it receives financial contributions from developers
  • Highways department particularly at fault
  • Crucial problems are fixed given the infrastructure needed for huge housing growth in Vale

The county council could be missing out on huge amounts of money it is entitled to for road improvements.

Section 106 agreements – money developers are obliged to pay the authority to mitigate the impact of their schemes – are not being properly managed, according to the council’s Environment, Transport and Localities Select Committee.

We felt that without enhanced resource and improvements highways are at risk of essentially being reliant on developers to submit s106 payments on time, or to rely on information from districts.

Report

Councillors heard that the post of section 106 monitoring officer was lost in 2012, which they felt that was a ‘lamentable mistake’ leading to ‘a lack of focus, visibility and expertise to effectively manage the s106 process’.

With Bucks – and in particular, Aylesbury Vale – set for massive housing growth over the next decade, they said it was vital changes are made.

The committee was particularly critical of the highways department, in contrast to education which it said was in a ‘much better position’.

When councillors first spoke to highways over a year ago they were ‘dismayed’ by the lack of records and monitoring they had.

The committee said while things have improved the council is still at risk of losing out on money it is due.

It said triggers for developers to pay up were not ‘monitored robustly due to lack of resource’.

As a result, the council ‘risks reputational damage as developers will see it as a light touch’.

Their report adds: “We felt that without enhanced resource and improvements highways are at risk of essentially being reliant on developers to submit s106 payments on time, or to rely on information from districts.

“In addition, we heard that they have had long delays on section 106 project delivery which runs the risk of the council having to repay monies to developers where schemes are not delivered within the timeframes.”

The committee makes seven recommendations to the council.

These include forming a central register database for all agreements, making a cabinet member directly responsible for section 106 monies and placing money due in the authority’s capital programme.

Stephen Walford, the council’s director of growth and strategy, said: “The select committee has, rightly, reflected member concern in this area and, in its report, makes clear the desire to see council performance improve.

“I am pleased that the committee recognises our improvement over the last 12 months, however I agree that our progress to date must be seen only as the first part of the journey in this respect. To that end, the cabinet will be considering its formal response to this committee report shortly.”

WHAT ARE SECTION 106 MONIES?

Legally binding private agreements made between planning authorities and developers, named after relevant section of the Town & Country Planning Act.

They provide millions of pounds of extra money to councils and are used to make development acceptable in planning terms.

Money is put towards services, infrastructure and amenities in order to support development.