Mole Valley District Council sitting on millions in unused developer contributions



MOLE Valley District Council is sitting on millions of pounds paid to improve local facilities impacted by housing developments, it has been revealed

By Dorking Advertiser  |  Posted: January 05, 2015

By Michael Davies

Careful:   The  council has spent a  fraction of the cash it  received in Section 106 payments

Careful: The council has spent a fraction of the cash it received in Section 106 payments

More than £3 million has been paid to the council by developers in the past decade, including £1,262,517 in the past four years, to spend on community projects such as playgrounds in areas approved for the building of new homes.

However, despite receiving the hefty amount, figures released to the Advertiser have revealed that just £48,706 of that has been spent on community projects since 2011.

The funds – collected from developers under Section 106 planning obligations, known as “planning gain” – are given to authorities to reduce the impact of large-scale housing developments on communities by giving them the means to improve local amenities.

Such payments are primarily intended to be spent on the area near the development to improve highways, parks, public transport and schools, and are often seen as a way of making otherwise inappropriate developments more acceptable.

Among the projects funded are improvements at the skate park at Meadowbank Recreation Ground, Dorking (£1,013), adding to the “Playbuilder” fund to improve Ashtead Rec (£17,670) and £2,148 given to Newdigate Parish Council for the playground at The Brocus.

Another £24,069 was paid this year for Cannon Court Rec in Fetcham to add a play area aimed at older children, while £5,954 has been split between the Reigate Pilgrims Cricket Club, Headley Parish Council to go towards a playground refurbishment and to add to the budget to refurbish the playground at Cradhurst Rec in Westcott.

Since 2003, Mole Valley District Council has received £3,306,465 in S106 payments, with Surrey County Council receiving £3,376,891 in the same period.

The payment of S106 costs has recently been reviewed by the Government, when it was decided that such payments provided only a “partial” response to getting contributions and a second contribution, the Community Infrastructure Levy, is now in place to run alongside S106 agreements. According to Mole Valley, when money is collected from areas where the council does not have land to provide play equipment, it is passed on to the parish councils.

The authority also claims that money has been spent on other restoration projects and town improvements, including the ongoing resurfacing works in West Street, although exact details have not been released.

In a council statement provided with the financial information requested by the Advertiser, the authority said: “Section 106 funding has been used in Ashtead to restore the village pond and to assist with improvements to the Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall.

“In Dorking, we have undertaken improvements to South Street Gardens and are currently undertaking a resurfacing of West Street.

“We have also undertaken improvements in Church Street and High Street, Leatherhead, and undertaken improvements to the riverside path at Leatherhead. Decorative rails and gateway was provided for the Memorial Gardens in Leatherhead.

“Street furniture improvements have been undertaken in Fetcham and Bookham. A contribution was also made to the Olympic Cycling public art work on the Denbies Roundabout.

“Funds have also been used to promote Dorking under the leadership of the Dorking Town Manager, including the revamp of the town website.”