Recently there’s been a lot of talk about Section 106. I’ve been hearing that Section 106 could pay for a new village hall, a new scout hut, an amenity site on the river, a village centre, a health centre, and a cycle path to Ashford.
These discussions suggest that Section 106 is the answer to all our prayers, a bottomless pot of gold which will pay for absolutely everything. Neighbourhood Plan? Section 106. Unpaid tax bill? Section 106. Car repairs? Section 106. Vet’s bill. Section 106…
Unfortunately the truth is rather more ordinary. Section 106 refers to the section of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act which stipulates that developers should make payments to local authorities for some of the infrastructure which becomes necessary as a result of their development.
Section 106 payments therefore might be made to cover improvements to roads and public transport infrastructure, as well as provision to local schools and improvements to local amenities.
The issue is particularly thorny here in Wye because there is a feeling that we ‘didn’t get anything’ from the most recent development in the village at Havillands. There have been issues about amenity provision on the estate itself, and large payments were made to support services in Ashford rather in the immediate vicinity. Those who are interested can view the full agreement here: HavillandsSection106.
The opinion that we ‘didn’t get anything’ is perhaps further confirmed when one looks at the document published by Ashford Planning and Building Control (AshfordSection106) which shows what Section 106 is being spent on in the borough: open spaces and play facilities (such as the new children’s playground at the Stour Centre); recreation ground improvements (such as the ones on Hythe Road); country parks (such as one at Park Farm); sports pavilions (such as one at Great Chart); green transport (such as the Willesborough Dykes cycle path); the Gateway Centre; bus service improvements; the construction of a couple of schools (Goat Lees and Repton Manor); and 271 affordable housing and 100 extra care units (in 2012/2013).
All of these are valuable improvements to our local town (and surrounding areas). I think the Gateway Centre, for example, is fantastic. But that doesn’t mean that all Section 106 money from Wye should be going there. And I also think it’s important that Ashford and developers are completely transparent about what the money is spent on and why.
Recently there have been shocking revelations that local councils around the country have never got round to spending the Section 106 money at all, and, if that happens, there’s a danger that the developer never has to pay.
Currently the parish council and Wye Primary are pursuing the matter of £130,000 from the Havillands development which was for ‘the provision of primary school places’ at a school within two miles of the development. It appears that the money has still to be allocated and is ‘lodged with Kent County Council’ (as the education provider). Let’s not forget about it please! (The PC is working on it as I have said. Technically it is possible to adapt the original agreement – as it is five years after it was signed.)
With regard to all the future development that is to take place in Wye before 2030, I think we should aim for a percentage (agreed with Ashford) to be spent in the immediate area (25%? 35%? more?). And, as recently identified by Councillor Shoults, we need a wishlist of where that money could be allocated.
Councillor Shoults has come up with a wish list which will be discussed at the parish council meeting on Monday. I haven’t seen his but have drafted a list of my own:
1/ Off road cycle paths connecting Wye with Conningbrook, Kennington, Chilham (half complete), and possibly Naccolt.
2/ A proper, safe bus stop for children arriving in and leaving the village.
3/ A green parking area/ riverside park in the field downriver from the Tickled Trout.
4/ Improvements to the level crossing/ pedestrian crossing of the railway.
5/ A small cottage hospital to facilitate the care of the sick in the community.
6/ Renovation of the old football pavilion on the Village Hall playing fields.
There are other ideas of course. I have in the past talked to people about a new village hall and a youth café. These are all good ideas. But I’m just not sure that Section 106 is the way to fund them.
This is obviously a personal list based on my experience of living in the village for the past 10 years, and talking to people about what’s needed. I’m more than willing to hear other suggestions.