Garry Perkins burns his Priory Vale visa

Mr Perkins is not renowned for engaging many brain cells before opening his mouth, but in his latest outburst he might just, unwittingly, have stumbled through a nuance of planning law.

Swindon Borough Council has been busily splashing the cash from a renegotiation of Priory Vale’s ‘Haydon 3’ planing obligation — commonly known as a S106 agreement — around the borough, with little if any regard for its impact on the new housing development. According to Mr Perkins, there’s nothing wrong with that.

We’ve got to look at the town as a whole rather than individual areas. It’s for the use for the good of the people of Swindon, of which Haydon 3 area residents are part. You don’t need passports to go to Old Town because you’re from north Swindon. It’s the same town.

At first, it would seem that Mr Perkins — although he’s the council cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration — is unfamiliar with the relevant planning laws. Section 122 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010 states:

  1. This regulation applies where a relevant determination is made which results in planning permission being granted for development.
  2. A planning obligation may only constitute a reason for granting planning permission for the development if the obligation is—
    1. necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms;
    2. directly related to the development; and
    3. fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development.

In other words, it’s illegal to use S106 money for something that isn’t directly related to the housing development the money came from. If a council were to use the money in that way, the developer that was forced to stump up the money could reasonably demand their money back, leaving the council taxpayers to foot the bill for whatever the money had been squandered on.

The critical point here is that the money now being spent is not from a Section 106 agreement, it is from a renegotiation of that agreement. So although it would be illegal for the council to insist before planning permission was granted that the Haydon 3 developers pay for something irrelevant to Priory Vale — such as facilities in Dorcan — it’s within the law to do so now after planning permission was granted.

The occupants of Abbey Meads may quite reasonably feel aggrieved that the money to be spent in support of where they live has diminished from £18.6M to just £700,000 but unfortunately for them — and anyone else living in a new housing development — the council appear to have found a way around the legislation that’s intended to protect them.