Cabinet approves recommendations for more community involvement in development issues

A cross-party review into Uttlesford District Council's approach to developer contributions has been given unanimous approval by Cabinet.

At a meeting on 1 July, members of the Cabinet endorsed a series of recommendations which had been put forward by a Planning Obligations Task and Finish Group established by the Scrutiny Committee. The group was set up in 2019 to look into the way planning obligations are considered, negotiated and managed by the council. A planning obligation - also known as a S106 - is an agreement with developers on the contribution they will make to off-set the impact of development.

The group's recommendations, which had already been endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee, include:

  • the creation of an Uttlesford Developer Contribution Document
  • more town and parish council involvement through pre-application meetings
  • better reporting of planning obligations to the Planning Committee when it determines major planning applications
  • a publicly-accessible database to view what developers should be providing in line with their permissions
  • a review process to ensure the council learns through experience of best practice

Cllr Chris Criscione, Scrutiny Committee member and Chair of the Task and Finish Group, was pleased the report received unanimous acceptance by Cabinet. He said: "This review was rooted in a general perception that communities were losing out when developers reneged on commitments through the handling of developer contributions in the planning process.

"Together, members and officers set out to review what could be done to make sure that communities have their voices heard in matters around what developers contribute to the local community to mitigate their impacts, and we are confident that the report does just that."

In the report, it was noted that 71.1% of respondents to a local survey felt they have very little to no influence over the planning obligations process, with 76.3% left unsatisfied by the level of engagement with Uttlesford regarding the same process.

Cllr John Evans, Portfolio Holder for Planning and the Local Plan, said: "This review was designed to make sure the council engages with the community in the best possible way and that it facilitates a more open and productive relationship between the district and town and parish councils.

"This was an important much-needed piece of work and I would like to thank the members of the Task and Finish Group for their comprehensive report. I am delighted it has received the backing of Cabinet colleagues."

A review date has been set for September to monitor progress and to ensure the recommendations are actioned as soon as possible.

9 July 2021