Wednesday, 6 March 2013

How much leisure do we need ?

I've been to a dozen local planning meetings recently. Pity the poor, overworked, MP. Sitting in a draughty hall of an evening, listening to residents all saying "I'm not against development...I'm not a NIMBY!..But we don't need anymore houses..and think of the traffic going past my house..!" etc.

Something strikes me that should be changed about our planning regulations.
Firstly, the 106 money. This is money that  local councils insists that any housing development over a certain size needs to give to the council, to secure planning permission. Some of which is then passed onto the local area where the development takes place. These sums can be very large. A 25 house development might have contributed up to £100,000 to the local parish.

The problem is, by the rules of my district and county council, this money can only be used for leisure.
Leisure means leisure. Playing fields. BMX Tracks. Swimming pools. Toddler running laness and such.
There is no provision to use the cash for roads, toilets, transport, schools, parking or anything of a non sporting activity.

This issue has annoyed me for years, and now the big building surge is coming. {Due to changes made by this much maligned 'government of inactivity.' Its takes years to get anything moving from minister's announcement to the first change in the legal documents.}

In one village of 1,000 homes two developments totaling 100 houses have been built. This village has had a brand new recreation ground. Brand new multi-use all weather soccer pitch. Brand new changing rooms for its below non league, under 11's, soccer team. A cycling track. Tennis courts. Bowling green. Cricket pitch. Electronic scoreboard. And even more.

There are currently development plans for 2 more builds, making another 100 houses and another £150k of ...Leisure money!

At the same meeting the parish council voted to close the local toilets as the council won't fund them anymore and they cost 8-15k a year to run. And on the agenda  the doctors surgery and hospital, {another brand new, just completed, £80 million NHS development, pushed through under the dying days of the Brown splurge,} is having the local bus service changed from hourly to a two-three service gap due to funding cuts.
The library, one of the smallest in the land, is on closure watch. 
A scheme for a minibus to be used for the elderly to go to the new supermarkets, serve the surgery,  could not be approved because of costs. {This is in the country for you metro types. Instead of one supermarket every 2000yds, its one medium sized supermarket every 10 miles.}
The two schools are both at capacity, by virtue of the previous developments. Once the new houses go up  4+5 beds mostly, the parents may need to bus the kids to another school in another town, as is already the case for ALL the secondary school kids.

Interestingly the figures used to calculate numbers for children/ household is 1.3 children per home. That seems ridiculously low for 3/4 bed homes. That might be the national average figure, taking in all those grandparents still living in their 4 bed family homes once the chicks have fled, but for new builds it must be higher ? Who is buying a New Build, 4 or 5 bed for themselves ?

It seems absurd that a village/small town  about to be denuded of amenities is seriously considering an all weather, floodlit, hockey pitch, that they don't want, need and probably will never see much use and that will increase the current costs in upkeep and maintenance of the already extensive leisure facilities.



Mark Wadsworth said...

Who says it s106 cash can only be used for leisure?

AFAIAA s106 are not necessarily always in cash, the council can ask the developer to straighten up a road while he's at it, or dig drainage or pay for traffic lights or renovate the church hall or anything else.

Bill Quango MP said...

I'm saying in these cases MW. ALL the cash is leisure only. Section 106 is very often designated for leisure only. The district council can specify some road improvements, even school ones. But often..its leisure.

The council rep at the last meeting was asked, by myself, Can the existing public conveniences be moved from location in high street to the playing fields and paid out of this leisure money?

Answer : No.

I see..can FUTURE developments 106 money be used to fund other activities?

Answer: Erm..well..the core strategy requires a commitment to ..blah blah..

Will try again tomorrow night. Different town, same sort of issues.

This is a typical agreement from another council.

Section 106 of the Town and County Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority to enter into a legally binding agreement or planning obligation with a land developer called a Section 106 agreement.

The district council can, through these agreements, provide financial support for groups to provide and develop public open space and recreation projects that benefit the people XXXXXXXXXX

In order for the district council to distribute this money fairly they work with the relevant town or parish council to decide how these funds should be allocated. In order to do this applications must meet the the council's Leisure Development Fund criteria.

What projects are eligible?

Sport as defined by Sport England
A defined arts project as set out in the Art Support Plan 'Animating the Arts'
Museum or museum related projects
Community applications, normally play areas
Projects and organisations that are based in or near to the town/village where the development has been built

Typical projects that the scheme can support:

Putting on an event, such as an arts festival
Equipment for arts centres
New galleries in museums
New buildings such as sports changing rooms
Expanding or improving accommodation
Improving the surfaces of sports pitches
Play areas

Bill Quango MP said...

BTW Mark. What do you make of the 1.3 children / household calculation figure? Can that really be correct for a new build estate, with social housing? If they suppose a 1 bed has none and a two bed 1 and a three bed 2 etc, I'd say they were right. But that assumes equal numbers of each type of house being built.

In a recent development of 20 homes, ten 3 beds, four 4 beds and five 5 bed, 1 six bed.

Council makes that 26 assorted age kids. I make it 57. Sounds a bit high so say .75 kids / bedroom, rounded down?

Your knowledge of houses/housing markets is known to have no equal.

Graeme said...

peanut time as campaigner meets grunt

Budgie said...

The only reason we "need" so many new builds (on green fields) is because of the millions of immigrants putting pressure on the housing stock.

rwendland said...

A recent s.106 near me has part-funded (£40k) safety fencing by a nearby river - where there was a recent death, and £225k for riverside footpath development. Arguably leisure, but perhaps a bit more imaginative. Unitary authority, not 2 levels of council, so perhaps easier to organise.

Is this leisure only a recent govt change? Back in 2006 a planned s.106 for a large development nearby provided funds (or at least the land) for a new primary school needed to support the development.

Sen. C.R.O'Blene said...

Don'e even start me on the dreaded Community Infrastructure Levy...

In Sevenoaks, it 'worked out at' £100.000 for just two houses.

Still, I suppose it becomes a council version of a nimby attitude, and Sevenoaks is still quite a nice place...

Mark Wadsworth said...

BQ, I take your word for it that "on the ground", s106 money is used for leisure stuff.

If you've pointed out to them that it doesn't have to be and they simply deny it, there's not much more you can do.
Why shouldn't they use average 1.3 children/home?

There are 12 million children in the UK aged 15 and under, and there are 27 million households, so the overall average is less than 0.5 children/household. If you count children as up to age 17, then it's about 0.5 per household on average.

Blue Eyes said...

The only reason we need so many new houses on greenfield sites is because so many northerners refuse to still live in shacks next to coal mines. If only they would stop getting an education and coming to London Town to make their fortunes we wouldn't need any more houses.

DtP said...

@BE - but me ferret and me whippet don't like it darn sarf and the tripe and drippin' are too hard to come by 'eck, by any road, ee bar gum, flippin' Nora, eggy thump etc etc

Bill Quango MP said...

MW: You are right. And I've checked with the council planners and they use 0.3 {not 1.3 as I had erroneously thought.}
That fits with your less than 0.5 average.

But, I can't believe that a national average , taking in bedsits, 1 bed flats and such, is applicable to a 3/4/5/ bed development. The Minimum must be around 1 / home?

I shall bring it up again later.

On tonight's planning site its 12 three bed, 10 four bed, 6 five bed
And a mix of 8 unspecified social housing, probably mostly 1 and 2 bed,
which seems to fit the 0.5 better.

gsd said...

I'm really surprised that libraries don't come under the "leisure" heading - especially if museums are. Who made that daft rule up?

Demetrius said...

And another thing. All these facilities generate future costs as well, maintenance, work needed and this and that, floodlights used electricity etc. If 106 asked for cost saving it would be another matter entirely. But who also pays eventually? Surely it must impact on the sale prices and therefore the ultimate mortgage burden of the buyers? Lots and lots of unintended consequences.

Bill Quango MP said...

It is , as ever, the taxpayer who pays Demetrius. Through the council tax.

Parish councils are {usually, but sometimes its district, but it matters little} responsible for the maintenance of the leisure and communal land and buildings.

you'll notice, if you ever read the boring leaflet that comes with council tax, "X" for maintenance.

That normally involves a contractor cutting the grass weekly. Litter bins and clean up. dog patrol. Signage. District Council audits of equipment. Repairs and maintenance, power, water, H+S assessments and all the associated UK bureaucracy and insurances that go with any public use.

Probably £20k-£30k for an average sized park in a small town.

Grass cutting is set to increase quite substantially for councils as the 'new , trendy' philosophy in play areas is to get rid of all that recycled tyre, bouncy,fall proof matting and just have grass. To demonstrate risk.

I don't agree. For one thing chucking all those old worn out tires into a mincer and getting a useable rubber compound from them was a good use.

Electro-Kevin said...

BE- My experience is that Northerners would prefer to live in shacks next to coal mines, ship yards... steel works...

In fact the 'low standard of living' thing was a myth all along.

Mum hails from Newcastle and visitations there throughout my childhood showed me that they had a far superior way of life than us Londoners.

Electro-Kevin said...

I used to beg my Dad to move up there.

Bill Quango MP said...

Even better today , Kevin.
Minimum wage innit.

If you can get onto the public sectors national pay scales but live in a cheap housing area, you're minted.

A surgeon relative of mine is thinking of moving from his 3 bed, very nice, large for London, meaning small, sized terrace house, to York.

He's looking at 3 acres of 6 bedroom 1850s Old Rectory, with stables, barn conversion granny cottage- sleeps 3, swimming pool, lake, , games room, all mod cons etc.

And the commute is only 45 minutes longer (so he says. You'll know better i expect,)

"How will you afford the train fares?"
"I only go in twice a week. And I'll have knocked £300k off the mortgage. .. I'll use that."

James Higham said...

Perhaps this could be extended to the Don Valley stadium.

Budgie said...

Immigrants must be housed somewhere. Immigration for the last decade was around 200,000 per year. This means we needed around 70,000 to 100,000 new homes (bedsits, flats, houses) every year (and the infrastructure) just to stand still. Replacement builds add to those figures.

In the last couple of years we have built about 100,000 new homes per year. Therefore the flats and houses you see being built on green fields are there because of immigrants.

Mark Wadsworth said...

BQ, yes, if you are building an estate of 3/4/5 bed houses, you would think "about 2 kids per house" wouldn't you. And that's what I'd think - initially.

1.3 seems fair enough - remember those kids will only be there for a while and soon the houses will be owned by miserable pensioners complaining about council tax and all the new housing being built.

But 0.3 seems completely daft. Maybe your council is just really daft?

Bill Quango MP said...

Thanks MW.
Now ,whilst we won't agree about home ownership, I should reveal my inner chuckle that in the debate last night, one person complained about 'more housing ..we don't need it ,' and one about 'our children can't afford to live in those houses. Where do our children live..they have to move away.'

And, of course both comments were by the same person, and both were warmly applauded by the public.

Agence communication said...

i like so much to read this part "" Something strikes me that should be changed about our planning regulations.
Firstly, the 106 money. This is money that local councils insists that any housing development over a certain size needs to give to the council, to secure planning permission. Some of which is then passed onto the local area where the development takes place. These sums can be very large. A 25 house development might have contributed up to £100,000 to the local parish.""