East Herts streamlines distribution of cash for community projects and infrastructure
A slush fund of cash for Bishop’s Stortford’s community is waiting to be spent.
East Herts Council has appointed a dedicated officer to investigate money generated by Section 106 planning agreements with developers which has yet to be allocated to projects.
Once James Gardener’s review is complete, the authority will appoint a full-time member of staff to ensure not a penny is wasted.
The district decided to take action after the deputy chief executive Helen Standen called for action.
The sums involved were reviewed behind closed doors by East Herts but previous tallies of Section 106 funding currently available for Bishop’s Stortford show £583,654 is on East Herts’ books with £1,710,889 waiting to be spent by Herts County Council.
Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows councils like East Herts to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission. They are used to support the provision of
services and infrastructure, such as highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing in partnership with other councils and organisations such as the NHS.
However, when East Herts investigated its processes, it was clear recording of S106 took place across numerous systems and there was no central record. Additionally, there was little monitoring undertaken.
Officers also identified that there was some unspent historical S106 funding that was reaching time-bar - usually ten years - and in danger of being lost.
In response, East Herts has agreed to centralise its recording and set up a monthly officer working group while establishing a project plan list.
Mr Gardener said that the council would liaise with partners, like the town, on expediting the use of funds already allocated and in future community groups and organisations would be able to suggest priority projects before planning permission is granted so that the cash makes the maximum impact. A new mechanism for bidding for funding has also been introduced.
He said: “We are in a stronger position if we know what is best for the community.”
Mr Gardener told the town council that he was especially keen to get bids for outdoor sports facilities. At least £60,000 is known to be available.