A Preston councillor has called for more co-operation between different levels of local government to ensure that funding is provided for extra school places when new housing is built.Advertisement
Sue Whittam – who sits on both Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council – told a recent cabinet meeting at County Hall that it was “disappointing” when the district authorities that determine planning applications do not secure the financial contributions sought by Lancashire education bosses.
Her comments were in response to a decision by the city council’s planning committee in May to grant permission for an estate of more than 400 new homes on a plot of land south of Bartle Lane in Lower Bartle.
Read more: Whittingham new housing estate to include low-cost homes
The county council, as the education authority, had requested that developer Wain Homes stump up £1.6m towards the creation of the additional high school classroom capacity that will be needed as a result of the new properties.
However, the housebuilder argued that its scheme would not be financially viable if it had to make the payment – and also initially insisted that it could not afford any of the other cash and in-kind contributions that would ordinarily be required for an estate of the size proposed. Those would usually include a commitment to 30 percent of the dwellings being classed as ‘affordable’.
After discussions between the city council and Wain Homes, the developer agreed to make some financial contribution as part of the planning process – and councillors on the planning committee were presented with a range of ways in which the money could be split between school places and the provision of affordable housing.
Read more: Next phase of Savick regeneration underway
A majority of them wanted to get the maximum number of affordable properties, leaving no money to generate extra secondary school capacity.
Cllr Whittam told the county cabinet meeting: “As a result, the developer is providing no contribution to school places, even though over 450 houses will be built – and despite a request from Lancashire County Council asking for a contribution.
“What can be done…to ensure that developers, district councils and others are working with Lancashire County Council to provide these much needed school places?” the Preston Rural division representative asked.
Cabinet member for education and skills Jayne Rear said that County Hall “understood that planning committees will have to consider competing requests for contributions towards a range of infrastructure”, adding:
“However, where our request for education contributions is not supported, then our response should be classed as an objection to the [proposed] development.
“We ask local planning authorities to support our requests for funding and/or land and it is then for [them] to consider the information and determine what makes a sustainable development.
“The county council is the strategic commissioner of education in Lancashire and, as such, we make every effort to secure funding towards meeting this important obligation,” County Cllr Rear said.
Read more: New Whittingham primary school proposed
As well as providing 125 affordable dwellings on its Bartle development – at a cost of £5.6m – Wain Homes will also pay £3.1m in what is non-negotiable community infrastructure levy, which will be used to cover the £2.9m that the county council had also requested in order to be able to provide 163 new primary school places in the area.
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines