Concerns have been raised in Mansfield that the district council could “set a precedent” by allowing developers to change plans and avoid paying some community contributions.
The concerns came during a meeting of Mansfield District Council’s planning committee on Monday (July 5), when councillors approved a 30-home development in Wood Lane, Church Warsop.
The scheme, of 30 ‘affordable rent’ properties at a former miners’ welfare site, had changed since outline permission was granted in 2019 alongside a separate 42-home project.
Initial plans submitted and approved by the council suggested that the development would be of 30 homes, with 20 per cent listed as ‘affordable’.
Those plans also included ‘significant’ contributions of Section 106 funding – cash provided by developers to improve local services such as education and healthcare – as well as a pledge to improve bus shelters in the parish.
Under the initial plans, this would have amounted to £81,936 for education, £16,256 for the NHS, £14,000 on bus stop improvements and a further £33,000 for an off-site open space.
However, revised documents as part of the full planning application changed the scheme to 100 per cent affordable.
Under the new plans, social home provider Platform Housing Group made a pledge to offer the wholly-affordable scheme as an alternative to making the Section 106 funding.
Developers deemed that, by providing an entirely affordable project, it would then not be “financially viable” to make the community contributions.
The changes led to concern among members of the committee who had previously raised similar questions about similar developments.
Councillor Phil Shields independently represents Netherfield, a ward in the Warsop parish.
He voted against the development and had previously been outspoken on the need to “take a stand” on the issue.
Speaking in the meeting, he said: “I think that, unless we as an authority take a stand on 106 money and actually look at turning applications down, it’s always going to be the same.
“The residents of the district are going to be out of pocket and developers are going to be reaping the rewards of it.”
Councillor Andy Sisson, independent member for Racecourse, also raised similar fears in the meeting and warned of the “precedent” being set.
He said: “Once a precedent is set, as this will, it does open a pathway for developers to come up with the same thing.
“Yes we are desperate for affordable housing, but of course the developer will have 30 properties on that site which the housing association will own.
“It is affordable and the rent is set by central government, but it’s 30 properties that they will be taking a lot of income from, for a lot of years.”
But other members, including the committee chairman, believed that the benefits of a 100 per cent affordable scheme “outweighed” the loss of Section 106 funds.
Councillor Martin Wright, who represents the Holly ward for the Mansfield Independents, also spoke in favour of the scheme.
He said: “There is no stronger advocate for getting Section 106 payments on our applications than me, I’ve moaned times many about the cost of affordable housing and it’s a very meagre sum.
“I’d like all planning applications to deliver everything that we think they should do, but in this case they are.”
Members of the committee voted to approve the scheme by six votes to four.