Peterborough Council and the Section 106 Money

08:08 Monday 5th March 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: A City councillor has expressed his dismay after the City Council agreed a deal with a developer to accept a lower Section 106 contribution. Basically every time a development is built in the city, a fee is agreed between the developer and the Council for how much money needs to be given to accommodate the new facilities. And it means if you get something built in your ward, then you generally get something nice to spend on say a park, or a community centre, or something that your ward needs. This particular deal means that Central ward has missed out on around £39,000. Now earlier we heard from Councillor Nazim Khan. He represents Labour in Central ward. He explained what happened. (TAPE)
NAZIM KHAN: There was a development taking place on Lincoln Road. There was about 23 apartments that were to be built. And the money was allocated, £50,000 towards the Hobson site, that they were going to make use of for children and young people. And apparently, after the completion of the building and everything else, they have decided that they can’t afford to pay £50,000, and they can only make the contribution of £11,000. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well the Council says the terms of the development has changed. Well last year the Council revealed that a total of £6.5 million of Section 106 money has yet to be spent, and was lying in Council coffers. Nick Sandford’s here from the LibDem group. Morning Nick.
NICK SANDFORD: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: It sounds a bit odd to me, that you make an agreement with a developer. They agree to pay £50,000. Then they go at the end, I can’t afford that. What if we call it student accommodation, and we only pay £11,000?
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. You were talking about deja vu, and I seem to spend a lot of time coming on your programme talking about lack of democracy, lack of accountability, within Peterborough City Council. And I’m afraid this is a further example of it. I can’t comment on this specific case in Councillor Khan’s ward. What I can say is over a number of months I’ve been raising concerns about how Section 106 is spent, the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any consultation with local residents, local councillors. And I actually raised this at a Council meeting in October. Councillor Hiller agreed to have a meeting with me. I’m still waiting to have that.
PAUL STAINTON: From October you’re still waiting.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. I spoke to .. I was on your programme in December with the Head of Planning, and I phoned him after the meeting and said, can I come round and have a chat with you about this. He said yes, I’ll get my PA to fix up a meeting. Still waiting for it. And then we hear they’re not prepared to come on your programme and talk about it.
PAUL STAINTON: Perhaps they’re just really busy.
PAUL STAINTON: We have heard from sections of the community right around Peterborough, particularly in Eye. The residents in Eye very unhappy that a lot of the money that was promised from the Garden Park development has not been spent in Eye. We’ve heard that many times. And there’s other pockets around the city where they were expecting certain cash. Like Nazim Khan said, he was expecting to build some sort of centre for kids to get them off the streets. Well now he’s going to put some floodlights up.
NICK SANDFORD: What they said in the written statement that they gave you is true. They had devised this rather complicated formula that says that 65% of Section 106 money gets spent on strategic projects, and 35% goes on .. not on the particular ward, but on the actual area that the development’s in. And that money is supposed to be handled through the Neighbourhood Committees. Now one of the problems is, you know I’ve got an example in the ward I represent. We’ve got the Peter Brotherhood Retail Park, where the brand new Marks and Spencer is going to be built. People come to me and they say, they’re aware there’s over £900,000 in Section 106 contributions. And they come to me and they say, well, we’d quite like the idea of having a new Marks and Spencer, but what are the traffic problems going to be like? Because they’re really bad at that bit of Lincoln Road at the moment.
PAUL STAINTON: Well we know what’s coming though, don’t we? Traffic jams galore round that roundabout and all the way back.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. And I’m told by the Council, well you need to look in the Integrated Development Plan. Well, who decides what’s in the Integrated Development Plan? I said if I want a project putting in that, what’s the mechanism? And all I can find out is there’s a secret Council committee that meets and administers this Plan. And a Plan was agreed by Full Council quite a number of years ago with a massive list of projects in. But I don’t know how you actually change that. It’s a complete lack of involvement in what councillors think.
PAUL STAINTON: Slightly off script now, but can I just put this on record and say this. I believe that traffic on Bourges Boulevard is going to be a nightmare in the next two years. We’re going to have the development at the Railway Station, for which no provision for traffic has been made, as far as I know, or extra traffic coming. And then we’ve got the Brotherhood Retail Park, where traffic is going to be cannoned back all the way down Bourges Boulevard. Let me just put that out there right now, on Monday 5th March, that in the next two years we’ll be at gridlock on Bourges Boulevard. When I did the interview a couple of weeks ago, nobody seemed to realise this fact. But that’s a separate issue. But going back to the 106 money, we mentioned Eye, the money not being spent there. And in December the Council said they would review how this money is spent in Peterborough. But we’ve had no word, have we?
NICK SANDFORD: No. I don’t know what’s happening. There’s a number of projects in my ward. There’s the actual Itter Park development, £1.2 million there. I keep saying I’m the councillor for the area, or I’m one of the councillors. Am I going to be consulted on it? One of the problems is having such an opaque system works to the advantage of the administration on the Council. Because the classic example is Marco’s obsession with these water taxis. He thinks they’re a fantastic thing. I’ve not come across anybody who particularly supports them. They originally were going to put that through the normal Council financing. There was a massive outcry. They said it could only be done if they got private developers. When I asked a question at a committee a couple of weeks ago, I was told they’re going to fund it through Section 106 contributions. Well who’s been consulted regarding that? It may have appeared on this gigantic list in the Integrated Development Plan, but I really do think that before we go and squander over £600,000 on that project, there should be some proper public consultation on it.
PAUL STAINTON: Nick, thank you for that. And we do have a statement. We did ask yet again for somebody from the Council to come on the show this morning and talk about this, but as I say, perhaps people are a bit busy. You seem to have hit a brick wall as well Nick. So there’s a lot to do, perhaps, on Peterborough City Council. But a Council spokesman said: “The amount of Section 106 money agreed for this particular development in Central ward was reduced because they changed the nature of the housing development. The original planning permission was for general housing, which would have incurred a Section 106 contribution of £50,000. However, the developer varied the scheme and called it student accommodation, which incurs a lesser contribution. All money the Council receives from these contributions is split two ways, 65% pooled for strategic infrastructure improvements, and the remaining 35% spent in the ward where the development takes place.