ATCM Calls on the Government to Free Up Community Cash to Improve Town Centres20 November 2014
Following discussions with its membership, and with information from this BBC report earlier in 2014 which highlighted that up to £1.5billion of Section 106 money remains unspent, the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) is today calling on the government to investigate how it can ensure that the benefit to local communities is not lost, by enabling it to be spent on town and city centres.
Section 106 Agreements, also known as planning obligations, are agreements between developers and local planning authorities that are negotiated as part of a condition of planning consent. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables local authorities to negotiate contributions towards a range of infrastructure and services, such as community facilities, public open space, transport improvements and/or affordable housing.
Developers work with local authorities to ensure that S106 money is targeted to benefit the local community in a range of ways, yet there are strict limitations on how and when this money can be spent, which means that when circumstances change there is often legally no way for the money to be distributed, resulting in it either remaining unspent, or in some cases handed back to the developers.
Shanaaz Carroll, CEO (Acting) of ATCM says “We would like to see a default amendment placed on these agreements, which will ensure that all of this ‘community money’ can be invested for the benefit of local community interests. The current legal constraints mean that sometimes Councils have no option but to leave the money unspent or return it. If the timeline for spending this money is about to expire and all options have been exhausted, we feel that the plan b should always see this money put into the beating heart of our communities – namely our village, town and city centres. ATCM is therefore calling on the Government to ensure this unspent money is freed up and used to support the work of town centre partnerships, economic development officers, Business Improvement Districts, Town Teams and anyone else in the business of local growth.”
Ojay McDonald, ATCM Public Policy Manager said “The use of unspent S106 money could make a significant difference to how much town and city management partnerships can do on the ground. Developers have often intended to invest in local communities through Section 106 but communities have been unable to maximise this based on unforeseen technicalities. Unlocking this cash and investing it to support and modernise our town centres is an absolute no –brainer.”
This policy is one of three core proposals ATCM are sending to Chancellor George Osborne ahead of the Autumn Statement, the others being 100% retention of business rates growth in town centres , and the importance of securing business rates reoccupation relief for the high street.
You can read the full letter from ATCM to Chancellor George Osborne HERE.
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