The controversial Moredon Bridge housing development returns to Swindon Borough Council’s planning committee on Tuesday 9 October when members will be asked to support a proposal to accept a reduction of £2.7 million in Section 106 developer contributions.
By a quirk in the way the boundary between Swindon and Wiltshire was drawn in the north west of the town, a small parcel of land at Moredon Bridge next to the River Ray remains in Wiltshire. Plans for 200 homes by developers Wain Homes were rejected by Wiltshire in 2006 but the builders won the right to develop the land on appeal in 2008, despite most of the infrastructure being provided by Swindon.
An officers report to the planning committee explains that circumstances have changed since the original agreement to pay £3.8 million to mitigate the impact of the new housing, and that Wiltshire Council and Wain Homes are discussing a reduction in their contribution to £1,042,862 million.
Swindon Labour Group Leader, Councillor Jim Grant, has attacked a proposal to reduce the amount the developer was due to pay. He said: “I am utterly astonished that Swindon’s Conservative administration is proposing to let the housing developer get away with not paying what they agreed in what I assume is a legally binding agreement. This isn’t small change, but £2.7m worth of money that Swindon will be losing out on that should be mitigating the effects of this housing development.
“Because the developers haven’t paid what they should have by now this development has already led to increased traffic on Swindon’s roads, including on roads in my own Ward. The developers simply shouldn’t be getting away with this.
“Swindon’s Conservative administration need to show some backbone on this issue and force the developers to stick to the legally binding Section 106 agreement that they signed. I urge the Planning Committee who have the final say on this matter to reject the proposals and defend the people of Swindon. My worry if we don’t do this it will send a message to other housing developers that it is okay for them to shirk from their responsibilities and not pay for the infrastructure that needs to accompany these developments.”
The officer report to committee says that the way Section 106 contributions are calculated has changed, some provisions like bus services no longer run, and the methods used to measure traffic impacts have been adjusted.
Both authorities had considered court action to seek compliance with the original agreement but had realised that they need to seek a resolution that is in the interests of all concerned in the light of relevant current planning regulations in respect of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations.
Council leader Roderick Bluh endorsed the report and said councillor Grant’s complaint was not valid. “This issue is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council, because the development is in their area, and they negotiated the original s106 agreement, which has since been disputed by the developer. To say that Swindon Borough Council is in some way at fault in any of what has happened is just nonsense.
“The developer and Wiltshire Council have agreed that the best way forward is to re-negotiate the package completely. At tonight’s meeting the elected members of Swindon’s cross-party Planning Committee will decide whether to ask Wiltshire Council to negotiate just over £1m for Swindon, to be spent in Swindon.
“There’s a simple explanation why this is less than the original £2.7m – circumstances have changed massively since the original agreement was negotiated and we don’t need as much to mitigate the effects of the development.
“I would urge anyone interested to read the report at
– and not rely on the bizarre version of events offered by the Leader of the Opposition."