Hertfordshire County Council draws up new guide on contributions it expects from developers

The new guide was backed by a meeting of the county council’s growth, infrastructure and planning cabinet panel

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 9:44 am
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 9:46 am

Housing developers should be expected to contribute more to the additional costs of an increased population, according to a new tariff of charges being proposed by the county council.

More than 6000 new homes a year are set to be built in Hertfordshire over the next 10 years – with estimates suggesting a population increase of more than 107,000 between 2017 and 2032.

That’s set to increase the need for county council services and facilities – including schools, libraries, social care, waste and even the Fire Service.

Hertfordshire County Council draws up new guide on contributions it expects from developers
Hertfordshire County Council draws up new guide on contributions it expects from developers

And now the county council has revised guidance on the contributions it expects developers to make, saying that previous base-line data used is now out of date.

Developers have already suggested that the levies suggested by the county council are too high.

But on Tuesday, June 22, the new ‘guide to developer infrastructure contributions’ was backed by a meeting of the county council’s growth, infrastructure and planning cabinet panel.

It could come into force as early as next month (July), should it be agreed by a meeting of the council’s cabinet on July 12.

But it is not – and will not be – a statutory document. And it will be up to the individual planning authorities – that’s Hertfordshire’s 10 district and borough councils – to determine what weight to attach to it.

In his foreword to the draft guide, the county council’s executive member for growth, infrastructure and planning Cllr Stephen Boulton estimates that the cost of infrastructure required to meet growth by 2032 is around £5.7bn.

He suggests that will leave Hertfordshire with a projected £3.59bn funding gap.

And he says developers have a part to play in mitigating against the impact of their construction.

“It is important that the infrastructure requirements identified to mitigate the impact of development are funded by developer contributions,” he says.

“This is fundamental to ensuring the delivery of good places, designed sustainably and without adding further stress to the infrastructure network.”

The county council consulted in the draft guide for the second time earlier this year , between February 5 and March 19.

At the meeting of the cabinet panel on Tuesday, it was reported that a number of respondents had pointed to the guide costs being “significantly higher” than in the previous guide.

And it was suggested that this would affect the viability of schemes and could impact on the deliverability of ‘affordable’ housing .

Other comments as part of the consultation pointed to the use of 2011 census data as being out of date, a reliance on formula and the need for a more flexible approach and its complexity.

Some also pointed to ‘over-projections’ within the demographic model used as part of the guide.

At the meeting Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Zukowskyj also opposed the draft guide, after pointing to to its use of ‘tenure’ to determine the obligation on developers.

He highlighted the £17,719 expected to be passed to the county council for education purposes for a three bed property to be sold on the open market – compared to the £34,630 specified for a three-bed ‘council’ house.

Officers said this was a reflection of the data. And councillors were told that whereas on the open market three-bed properties could be occupied by couples, in the social housing sector – where fewer families have ‘spare’ rooms – there were likely to be more children.

But following the meeting Cllr Zukowskyj said the approach in the draft guide was “fundamentally flawed”.

He suggested it would “penalise, and potentially stop, local authorities trying to build council houses, by simply pricing them too highly”.

And he said: “Use of tenure as proposed isn’t sensible and is subject to change. Tenure should simply not be used; it demonises council tenants and that just isn’t on.”

The report to the cabinet panel acknowledged that the government has already proposed the introduction of a national infrastructure levy.

And, it said, the guide would provide the county council position until a replacement mechanism was in place.

Councils can ask for Section 106 monies or a Community Infrastructure Levy wherever they are deemed necessary to make a development acceptable in planning terms.