Developers’ money and the benefits to communities
How can developers’ money help revitalise and contribute to Brighton and Hove? A council and developer panel discussed the issues at Construction Voice.
Balancing residents’ worries about the impact of new development projects with potential options for funding to make community improvements were aired at the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce event.
Max Woodford, Brighton and Hove City Council’s Assistant Director of City Development and Regeneration, said one issue was a lack of public awareness that developers’ contributions had been used in the city, although the council did not want to be seen as “selling” planning consent or squeezing developers for contributions.
“We’ve probably not done enough to publicise developer contributions and probably not displayed value for money to communities, he said.”
Peter Rainier, Principal Director of Planning at DMH Stallard, said: “Developers do generally want their contributions to be used because they enhance the development itself.”
He said people objecting to planning applications were often unaware that developer contributions could be involved, to add benefits if the project went ahead, such as road improvements.
As examples, developer contributions linked to the Asda superstore development at Hollingbury helped fund the Sussex Innovation Centre at Falmer and the American Express redevelopment generated money towards playground and other improvements at Carlton Hill Primary School.
“Local authorities do robustly negotiate these agreements,” he said. “Any planning decision is a balance. They negotiate things as best as they can and come to a conclusion.”
Max said people contacting the council to say they supported a development project would be helpful, rather than only hearing from objectors. “It would be great if more people did express their support for things they like.”
The panel discussed the merits of moving from Section 106 (S106) contributions – where money is used in ways connected to the project under development – to a proposed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) approach, where contributions from developers can be pooled and used for different projects.
Draft CIL fees for the city were £75-£175 per square metre, higher than other parts of Sussex, with £250 per square metre for student housing developments. One potential downside is that the community may have less understanding that some funding for improvements is connected to developers, if the funding is from a pool of CIL contributions.
From a developer’s perspective, Lucinda Mitchell, Project Director at First Base, said good community consultation was vital. The project to develop the former American Express site in Edward Street involved a wide range of consultation meetings and included discussions about jobs, more green spaces, anti-social behaviour, health issues and housing costs.
She gave an example of her firm’s work in London where developer contributions through a S106 agreement were used to assist the Wandle River Trust charity in making environmental improvements.
Sean Clemons from Robinson Low Francis, one of the event partners, said: “It was another interesting Construction Voice event and as always benefited from the engagement of a wide range of individuals passionate about development in the region. I definitely came away with a greater appreciation of how S106 contributions and CIL payments will work in tandem, which has helped dispel some of my confusion on the topic.
“It was great to see the Council acknowledge that they could do more to share the benefit that development can have to local communities. A positive outcome would be for the Council to set out how they intend to do this.”
Phil Graves from Graves Jenkins, another event partner, said: “It was an important talk for further clarification on the adoption of CIL payments. Whether it will really make the planning and development process less protracted is still in debate.
“For me, it was enlightening to hear that many residents and communities benefit directly from major developments and it is the responsibility of the Council to ensure they get this message across far more clearly. There are plenty of responsible developers despite the public perception.”
You can find more information about developer contributions in the city here.
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