Revamp of section 106 threatens projects

Local authorities stand to lose a major income source under government plans to free developers from their obligation to pay for upkeep of landscape to their projects.

The Government's proposals are contained in a consultation document on planning obligations, or section 106 agreements, allowing for upkeep of open space.

The Landscape Institute said the proposals fly in the face of a coalition promise to promote green spaces and address climate change.

The onus on developers, who paid for and funded upkeep of green spaces based on the impact of their urban projects, would swing to local authorities for maintenance.

"This will have very serious implications," said policy expert Ian Phillips. "Green space provided by the developer immediately becomes a burden on the council.

"It will include street trees, nature reserves, parks, gardens and sports pitches. The worry is that the public sector is already facing huge funding cuts.

"This will stop an existing funding stream, which might make councils reluctant to have green spaces because they can't afford to maintain them."

Phillips said the consultation was prompted to avoid overlap with the community infrastructure levy (CIL) introduced by Labour just before the election. This let councils recover capital payments for landscape but not ongoing costs, and "it may be unintentional but they have thrown out the baby with the bath water", he said.

The Landscape Institute wants talks with the local government department, which said it was looking at responses. A representative for English Heritage said the policy would exclude the possibility of developer contributions for subsequent upkeep of landscape.

She added: "This has the potential to discourage investment in heritage assets and would have a disproportionate impact on the historic environment as a whole."

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