Concerns raised about ‘outdated’ Section 106 system after figures reveal barely a quarter of the sum requested has been paid out

File photo dated 19/8/2014 of houses. Controversial planning reforms have given a green light for bu

File photo dated 19/8/2014 of houses. Controversial planning reforms have given a green light for building tens of thousands of homes in the countryside despite local opposition, campaigners claimed. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 8, 2014. Under new planning rules, councils have to identify a five-year supply of land to meet demand for new properties in their area, despite problems in setting targets for how many new homes are needed. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Housing. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Concerns have been raised about the “outdated” planning agreements by which developers finance community projects, after it emerged barely a quarter of funds requested had been received.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) has made requests for developers to contribute around £19.3million under Section 106 agreements since 2011 but received only £5.8m of that sum.

Section 106 agreements were introduced by government to allow developments that would not ordinarily be accepted by including additional benefits in terms of funding, affordable homes, or new infrastructure.

The £13.5m payment shortfall, revealed by SCC under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, has been explained as arising because “key trigger points” have not yet been reached in many of the developments.

An SCC spokesman said: “The council only receives or collects money when development commences, or when payment trigger points within legal agreements are reached.

“Therefore it does take time to collect the full amount of this money.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC), which has been involved in negotiating Section 106 agreements worth around £5m from that total, said many of the developments had been scaled down, axed altogether, of had not yet been completed.

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A spokesman for SCDC said: “These figures highlight one of the key problems with the old Section 106 system, because it creates substantial delays in the payments being received to fund the infrastructure projects to the local authorities.”

SCDC said it was working, alongside other councils in Suffolk, to replace the “outdated” Section 106 system, with the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

“This new system sets clear, simple non-negotiable charges on new developments to ensure they contribute towards the provision of adequate infrastructure,” the spokesman added.

“CIL brings with it consistent charging, replacing negotiated agreements, which will be payable at specific, set points during the development.” SCDC hopes to introduce CIL “later this year” and Waveney District Council has already implemented the new system.

In the meantime, however, the shortfall has caused concern among community leaders, who said it was not unacceptable when councils were already faced with depleted budgets, to be made to wait for money to fund essential projects.

Christopher Hudson, who is the county council’s chairman and also a district councillor in Framlingham, said: “The big question my colleagues are asking is ‘where is the money?’ “At times of economic hardship, we need this money now and if it’s ours, why can’t we have it?”

The SCC spokesman said there had been “numerous projects” across the county that had been funded through Section 106 contributions, such as the large capital programme of creating more primary school places in Ipswich.

“There have been no delays in delivering projecting due to not receiving Section 106 funds, as we ensure we collect this money when it is due,” the spokesman added.

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