Hampshire councils found to be sitting on £1.3m in developers’ payments

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COUNCIL leaders have defended why hundreds of thousands of pounds that authorities have been given by developers has not been spent.

In some cases, money sitting in council coffers has been handed back because it was not spent quickly enough.

The money was given for community projects such as building playgrounds and improving roads, under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 – known as planning gain.

This is where developers make contributions to projects as part of an application.

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed Portsmouth City Council was sitting on £1.3m of unspent cash.

But city council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the authority has lessened its use of section 106.

He said: ‘About a year and a half ago, we moved to the Community Infrastructure Levy.

‘That is a tax on new development, but isn’t as specific as a Section 106.

‘It’s more general. For example if a development we were working on had traffic lights, we would consult on those plans.

‘If it was decided that wasn’t the best thing, then with a CIL the money could be spent on the new idea.’

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said that this is part of the reason why the council appears to be holding on to money.

He added: ‘There’s £135,000 for recreational funding in Farlington and Drayton, and had been put aside for tennis courts.

‘But talking to people there, the feedback is that the money should be spent to make sure there are better football facilities.’

In Gosport, £3m is unspent, and of that £880,000 unallocated. In Fareham, £3m is unspent, with £700,000 unallocated.

Fareham Borough Council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘If contributions were not taken from developers, then we would have no infrastructure, so we need it.

‘Some developers’ contributions will be collected towards a scheme and then the next developer will be paying towards the scheme, and the local authority has to collect all the money before it starts.

‘In terms of not allocating the money – that is wrong.

‘The vast amount of money in Fareham has been spent.

‘Money waiting in the bank is waiting to be spent, once sufficient money has been collected for it to be spent on development.’

He also said that money is given back if projects are no longer going ahead.