After years of prevarication and delay, Greenwich Council’s Cabinet decided to publish details of its Section 106 payments online for the first time this evening.
Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) allows local authorities to seek financial contributions from planning applicants in order to make the application acceptable. This “S106” is a legally binding agreement between the council and the developer. It could be a financial contribution for affordable homes elsewhere in the borough in return for a lower requirement, or none, at the development or transport and public realm improvements to mitigate the impact.
While this was first promised in July 2015’s Planning Obligations (s106) Guidance it has taken rather a long time, with numerous resident enquiries and Freedom of Information requests, to get this far.
Despite private assurances from the Denise Hyland (Labour – Abbey Wood – Greenwich Council Leader) last year that all S106 information was published and available online, tonight’s Cabinet papers reveal a different story.
However, one important piece of information is missing from the published information – the “Deferred Liability Date” for each agreement at which the monies must have been spent – as S106 agreements have time limits after which the funds are no longer available.
When this website first started investigating the figures back in 2015 we eventually received confirmation from the Directorate of Regeneration, Enterprise and Skills that this had happened with a number of agreements. These agreements, totalling nearly £1.5m, had expired and required renegotiation.
In the spirit of true transparency we hope the council will commit to amending the published document with this information, as quickly as possible.
Why is this important?
Notwithstanding the constant cry of “Government cuts”, and the supersedence of S106 with the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), these Section 106 payments represent a massive revenue stream for our local areas which could be used to make things a lot better. Even with CIL taking its place, S106 raised over £91m for the Council in the 2015-2016 financial year.
|Ward||S106 Secured||S106 received||S106 Secured but
not yet received
|Coldharbour & New Eltham||321,505||230,156||91,349||57,942|
|Kidbrooke with Hornfair||1,595,246||1,574,246||21,000||1,469,250|
|Middle Park & Sutcliffe||433,435||433,435||0||364,700|
These agreements can take a long time to pay out but there’s over £37m in the kitty right now, with another £174m yet to come. Greenwich’s S106s have been split into categories of use and you can see the proportions below.
|Category||S106 Secured||S106 Received||S106 Secured but
not yet received
|S106 Spent||S106 Remaining|
|Monitoring & Compliance||3,247,773||1,836,395||1,441,197||1,311,343||525,053|
With any large, draft dataset like this there are a number of questions on some lines. Berkeley Homes’ Ferrier Estate agreement for planning reference 08/2782/O shows a signed S106 for £10.3m to be spent on education. £6.55m has been received and £5.291m spent on Thomas Tallis School but the figures appear to show £3.75m unaccounted for.
Additionally, there are eight S106 agreements with blank figures for the amounts secured. We’ve asked for clarification and hope there’s an answer at next week’s full Council meeting.
It’s admirable that Greenwich are finally beginning to embrace transparency and Open Data after years of asking about this, and other, datasets held by the council. However, the format (PDF) leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve converted the draft document into a more useable format and we’ll look at something even better when the final document is published.