Government plans to jump-start construction by overhauling or abolishing section 106 agreements paid by developers to councils have alarmed experts who say the move will mean fewer funds for green-space maintenance and new landscapes.
A consultation was launched last week by the Department for Communities & Local Government into freeing developers from their duty to pay contributions. These were meant to offset their developments with community-beneficial work on parks, roads and schools.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles said he launched the consultation to allow developers to renegotiate section 106 obligations agreed before April 2010 because they set economically unrealistic agreements at the height of the housing boom. He is sending intermediaries or brokers to 10 councils including Leeds, Ipswich and Corby to help start renegotiations of deals to break barriers that are holding up more than 1,400 stalled housing schemes.
Parks consultant David Lambert warned any change could threaten much needed parks cash. "Planning obligations delivered under section 106 have been increasingly important for maintaining open spaces. It's not just about getting a playground or green space but funds to repair older parks.
"In hard times, when councils have so little capital to invest, it is even more of a resource. These proposed changes could well threaten a much needed source of capital funds for green space."
Meanwhile, BDP landscape architect and urban design associate Darrell Wilson warned there was no certainty that easing development would mean landscape gain. "We are happy to see stalled developments kick-started but don't want important functions of section 106 agreements that compensate damage caused by developments removed. In terms of more landscape work, it's a double-edged sword.
"Renegotiating 106s could lead to more development, but could also lead to the removal of requirements for landscape provision to reduce the costs of bringing development forward, meaning less design work."
Michelle Bolger, southern region landscape planning head at landscape architect Gillespies, said: "If agreements are no longer financially viable it's in no one's interest to insist on them because the development won't happen. What worries me is that renegotiated agreements may make the application unacceptable."
"Tackling problems with stalled development is essential to getting builders back on mothballed sites and building homes. There is huge potential in sites to boost local economies and we simply cannot afford to have them lying idle."
Eric Pickles, communities secretary.