Special Report: Doncaster Council failing to spend millions in development cash set aside for affordable housing
Doncaster Council is sat on millions of pounds set aside for affordable homes, extra school places and community projects.
Figures obtained by The Doncaster Free Press show the local authority is sat on Â£5.7 million instead of spending it to tackle the housing crisis.
The money comes from a piece of planning law called Section 106 Agreements, which allows councils to get money from developers in exchange for granting planning permission for projects.
One councillor on the planning committee said the figures made a ‘complete mockery of the rules’ and described trying to get Section 106 cash spent as a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’.
The council received Â£10.4 million from around 70 projects given planning permission dating back to 2013/2014.
Nearly Â£700,000 remains unspent from projects approved in 2013/2014.
In 2013, a sum of Â£507,000 provided by a developer in return for planning permission to build on ‘plot 8 and 9’ at Lakeside, has still not been spent on affordable housing.
Other cash from developments on Kingfisher Court, Conisbrough, Ramskin Lane, Stainforth, Whiphill Lane, Armthorpe, Doncaster Road, Denaby Main and Crookesbroom Lane, Hatfield, has still not been spent from 2013/2014.
The council also had Â£364,000 given to them by a developer who built new homes on Church Balk Gardens in Edenthorpe over five years ago.
The money was earmarked for affordable properties, improvements to public open space and 14 primary school places.
Over Â£160,000 earmarked for affordable housing remains unspent after developers built new properties at Manor Farm in Bessacarr.
Around Â£1.1 million earmarked for affordable homes also remains unspent after developments at Doncaster Rovers’ former Belle Vue stadium, Hayfield Green in Auckley, Malton Way in Woodlands, McConnell Crescent library in Rossington and the former Earth Centre car park in Denaby.
Coun Jonathan Wood who sits on the planning committee said: “It makes a complete mockery of rules that are put in place to try and deliver some return to the community.
“It ends up languishing in the purses of bureaucrats rather than getting put into the projects that it’s actually meant for.
“The whole system of section 106 fails us and consistently doesn’t deliver a proper return in the communities that desperately need it whether that be a new playground or much needed affordable housing.
“This is still relevant but there are cases where money is taken from a community that’s taken the hit with the development it then ends up being rolled up in a bigger project which never touches the area that needs it.
“It can’t be beyond the capacity of people within the council to get on and spend this money - it’s free cash for us in some respects and it’s being held up by layers of bureaucracy.”
Duncan Neish, policy officer at the National Housing Federation, said: “Section 106 funding is one of the most important ways of delivering new affordable homes, so it is important that it is used effectively.
“It should be allocated as fully as possible, with a focus on investing it in ways that will make a big difference for local people, including by building desperately-needed affordable housing.”
Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the House Building Federation, which represents firms behind 80 per cent of all new builds, said: “Last year private house builders contributed over Â£6bn towards affordable housing and infrastructure and amenity improvements, either through on site provision or through cash contributions to local authorities.
“If we are to gain the trust of communities and demonstrate how new developments really are helping improve local areas it is imperative that the money is used in a timely manner.”
Steve Mawson, Doncaster Council’s chief financial officer, said: “All of the unspent section 106 funding is earmarked for a range of developments including older people’s affordable housing, improving public open spaces which may include installing new play equipment and improving parks and woodland areas which will be developed in consultation with council members and the community.
“Quite often when funding comes in smaller chunks we combine these contributions over time to invest in larger projects with greater impact in the community.”