Local Plan to 2030 - Publication Draft

SECTION F - IMPLEMENTATION

Funding and Delivery of Infrastructure

5.453 This Plan is supported by an Infrastructure Delivery Plan which is an iterative document that sets out the infrastructure that is required to be delivered to support the planned development up to 2030. It has been informed by discussion with key providers and identifies (where known) how and when this infrastructure might be delivered and to what extent new development is directly reliant on its delivery as a means of prioritising the required infrastructure.  

5.454 Over the last 20 years or so, the Council has successfully managed to fund new infrastructure of many types and forms through Section 106 Agreements. This infrastructure has helped to ensure that new developments are properly served by the services and facilities that support everyday life and that these facilities are delivered at the right time to meet new demand.

5.455 The introduction of the CIL Regulations in April 2015 now limits the scope of Section 106 Agreements and their ability to act as a pool for developer contributions towards strategic infrastructure, although they still have a role in the provision of site specific facilities. As a consequence the Council proposes to introduce a Community Infrastructure Levy Charging Schedule alongside this Local Plan. This has been tailored to take account of the general policy requirements contained within this Plan and reflects the viability position at the time of drafting. It is likely that the CIL Charging Schedule will need to be reviewed on a regular basis to reflect changing market conditions.

5.456 Nevertheless, the Council still considers that Section 106 Agreements can provide a more certain means of delivering specific infrastructure and services than the use of CIL receipts. This has benefits for developers, residents and service providers and allows for more transparency about what will be delivered and when. Consequently, the Council will continue to work with service providers to identify specific projects which meet additional demand arising from the policies of this Plan, allowing for a maximum of five S106 Agreements to provide proportionate contributions to those projects, in preference to assuming funding will arise from CIL in due course.

5.457 The Council also intends to publish a generic development contributions SPD that will provide greater clarity on what level of financial contributions will be sought from the development schemes to deliver the infrastructure that is required.

5.458 Clearly, it is not possible to foresee all potential needs arising from development proposals (including windfalls), and so these will need to be assessed at the time against relevant policies in this Plan. Where specific requirements are known at this stage, these have been identified through the site allocation policies.

Policy IMP1 - Infrastructure Provision

The Council will continue to work with relevant service providers to identify and deliver the infrastructure that is needed to support the development set out in this Plan.

All developments shall make provision to meet the additional requirements for infrastructure arising from the development, either through Section 106 Agreements and / or Community Infrastructure Levy contributions.  

 

Deferred Financial Contributions

5.459 Although this Plan is based on a whole plan viability approach to show that it is realistically able to be delivered, the Council understands the need to remain flexible - a key requirement of the NPPF.

5.460 In reality, the wider economy and the property market are likely to experience a number of different cycles through the lifespan of the Local Plan.  Changes in demand, development values, and build costs will all have a bearing as can Government policy – for example, the support given to funding to secure development and infrastructure.  Individual sites  may incur unforeseen abnormal costs in their redevelopment or require specific infrastructure requirements that mean that, on occasion, additional costs need to be carried. 

5.461 The starting point for this Plan is that development proposals can meet all of their respective policy and infrastructure requirements in full and be delivered in a timely way to ensure needs are met as a scheme comes forward. The Council has in the past adopted a flexible approach in relation to affordable housing and the provision of other infrastructure contributions. Given that this Plan has been subject to much more stringent viability testing than previous ones, and the policies in it have been framed from this evidence, it is expected that the number of applications where viability issues are identified should significantly reduce.

5.462 However it is recognised, that in some cases a shortfall in the contributions towards infrastructure requirements and affordable housing provision, as set out in this plan may be justified on viability grounds.  In such cases, the council will work with the relevant service providers to determine the most appropriate balance of infrastructure provision that should be delivered so that the impact on residents who need the infrastructure is kept to the minimal possible. 

5.463 Where site specific viability evidence can robustly demonstrate that the required developer contributions cannot be met, the council has adopted a system of ‘deferred contributions’. Using this approach, the Council may agree that some normal Section 106 financial contributions can  be foregone on the proviso that, should sales values increase beyond an agreed benchmark in future,  some or all of the previously under-funded contributions will be made up. This approach provides the council and developers with important  flexibility to allow development to proceed in changing market conditions over the course of the Plan period and has successfully been applied in the last few years.   Where development risk is highest and market demand uncertain – for example, in new or untested sectors of the housing market such as private rented sector apartment complexes in the town centre - the Council may seek independent advice and decide to waive the ‘deferred contributions’ approach to help de-risk schemes and improve prospects of their delivery.  

Policy IMP2 - Deferred Contributions

Development proposals shall achieve all of the policy and infrastructure requirements set out in this Local Plan in a way that ensures provision comes forward when it is required to support the needs generated by the development. 

Proposals which do not fulfil this objective should not be permitted unless it is supported by extensive viability evidence that establishes why any deficit is deemed necessary to make the scheme viable and that there are wider planning benefits for the development to go ahead. 

Any viability evidence that is provided to support an application must be done so in a transparent way and will be rigorously tested by independent advisors, paid for by the applicant. For larger schemes, where a proposals is to be phased over time, or where the opportunity exists to do so, the applicant will agree with the Council a programme or method of re-evaluating the viability of the scheme, to capture changes in circumstances.

Where a deficit has been deemed acceptable, the Council will require the applicant to agree a deferred contributions approach, to claw back as much of any deficit as possible, should market conditions improve significantly.

Enforcement

Planning enforcement

5.464 The Council’s approach to enforcement is clear.  It is the responsibility of individuals and businesses to comply with the law.  The Council will do all it can to help advise and treat people fairly but those who flout the system deliberately and/or repeatedly and cause serious harm can expect the strongest possible response.  The range of actions open to the Council and severity of penalties are often dictated by central government but, within these limits, the Council will always aim to act in way which deters others from non-compliance.

5.465 Residents understandably put great value on the quality of life and local environment that they enjoy – in the Borough’s countryside, towns and villages.   When development takes place without permission and causes significant impacts on people’s lives, residents of the Borough understandably expect that action should be taken.

5.466 The Council has agreed ‘Local Enforcement Plan’ (as advised by the NPPF) which sets out how the Council can and will respond.  Government advice encourages councils to try to resolve issues by negotiation as this is very often the quickest and most effective way to resolve problems.  It is also the best way to use resources. Taking formal action, assuming it succeeds, can be a much longer process than people imagine and consumes a lot of staff time.

5.467 However, where negotiation fails, or individuals deliberately or persistently ignore the rules and carry out development that seriously impacts on the wider community, then there should be no doubt that the Council will take formal action whenever possible.

Policy IMP3 - Planning Enforcement
In line with the provisions in the NPPF, the Council have agreed a ‘Local Enforcement Plan’. Provisions within this plan will be enacted by the Council and where negotiations fail, or where individuals deliberately or persistently ignore the rules and carry out development that seriously impact on the wider community then the Council will take formal action wherever possible

Governance of public community space and facilities

 

5.468 Development proposed within this Local Plan will deliver a variety of what can broadly be termed public community space and facilities which – in this context - includes open space, indoor and outdoor sports provision, community buildings, venues for art and the voluntary sector, SuDS features and areas around these features and, potentially, the verges next to footpaths and roads.   

5.469 How this provision is delivered and maintained has a direct impact on the quality of a place. In the past, the Council has generally been successful in securing and managing, with our partners, community space and facilities from developers. This has greatly improved the quality of life for the Borough’s residents and ensures that Ashford remains an attractive place to live, work and visit – a key objective of the Council as referenced in its Corporate Plan.

5.470 Although expanding such provision to cater for the new development proposed in this Local Plan clearly delivers many sound planning benefits, it does also create operational and financial challenges for the Council given the pressures on Council budgets. The same is true of our public sector partners. This pressure is unlikely to be eased, certainly in the short to medium term and in fact is likely to be increased, meaning a dynamic and innovative solution needs to be applied to ensure that both the right level of provision is secured to meet need, and that it is managed to a high standard so that the quality place aspirations are sustained.  

5.471 With such public sector financial constraint, there is a real potential that the quality of community space and facilities is undermined through a lack of resources, particularly if it relies on the public sector adopting and taking full responsibility for the long term stewardship. Furthermore, such a total adoption role provides very limited opportunities and incentives for local communities to have – and maintain – a stake in their area and help develop a positive sense of place.

5.472 The Council’s preferred position in recent times has been to not adopt new community space and facilities that come forward in response to development proposals. This remains the case.

5.473 Instead, the Council favours stewardship models as a means of ensuring ongoing management of community space and facilities. Such models take various forms, including community management companies, charitable trusts; Parish Council led models, community development trusts, community interest companies, and co-operative or community benefit societies.

5.474 The exact form of model will be dependent on local circumstances, the stewardship functions transferred, the extent and type of assets to be managed and the types of financial arrangements needed. Developers will be expected to endow new stewardship bodies with both assets and cash where practical, the latter of which should be at a level at least equivalent to a ten year commuted payment period.

5.475 The Council accepts that these sorts of models may only be suitable where there is a sufficient scale of development to create a natural community focus or where there is sufficient scale of on-site community space and facilities to manage. In certain circumstances, smaller schemes could also adopt such an approach, particularly if there is sufficient space and facilities nearby which could be taken on by a joint governance arrangement.

5.476 Where a proposal is not suitable to deliver the community based model envisaged above on account of its lack of size or facilities being delivered and / or its proximity to other developments does not allow for a more holistic approach, then a private management company solution might be considered acceptable.

5.477 Where this is the case, proposals will need to demonstrate that the private management company proposed will:

  • be run in a way that ensures residents have and retain a key governance role,
  • maintain openness and transparency,
  • be focused on the local development and the maintenance of the environment in the longer term with surpluses reinvested for such purpose,
  • provide a quality service at a reasonable cost over the longer term,
  • allow for residents to take control in the longer term should this be their ambition.

5.478 In certain circumstances, such as the adoption of community space and facilities that will form provision within a strategic hub (see policy COM2) or where the Council currently plays a governance role and want to retain this role, then the Council could be the adopting body. In these circumstances, financial contributions will be required towards the management of community space and facilities, for not less than a ten year period.

5.479 Given the importance of the issue of governance, all schemes that will deliver substantial levels of community space and facilities will be required to produce a governance strategy that will set out the specifications and details of the facilities to be delivered and how these will be managed and maintained over time. For larger schemes, this will also need to set out how the early governance arrangements will work in practice given that community space and facilities might be delivered before a community is fully established.

 

Policy IMP4 - Governance of Public Community Space and Facilities

Proposals that will deliver substantial community space and facilities are required to be supported by a governance strategy which will need to be agreed with the Council. This strategy will need to set out what facilities are to be delivered and by when, and how they will be managed over time to an acceptable standard.

Proposals which adopt a community stewardship model of governance will be supported.

Should a private management company model be promoted, then it will need to be established and run in a way that is affordable, gives the residents a key governance role and is focused towards the management of the facilities to be delivered by the development.

Where the Council takes on an adoption role, financial contributions will be secured from the developer towards the maintenance of facilities for at least a ten year period.