One of my photos

Section 106

June 10th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 10 Comments · Politics

Last week the Crawley News included the regular insert from the council: Crawley Live. Normally this is noncontentious to the point of dullness, but one article this time really wound me up: the one on page 7 about Section 106 agreements. It lists all the various benefits to society resulting from money extracted from developers – what used to be called ‘planning gain’ before planning gain was deemed illegal – but one particular S106 was conspicuous by its absence.

I am talking, of course, about the now-legendary agreement by the developers of Highwod Park, Broadfield to install traffic calming measures on Woodmans Hill. I last wrote about this just over a year ago and nothing has changed at all except we are one year on and therefore a little less likely to ever see the improvements made.

To summarise the events:

  • In 2002/3 (can’t remember exactly when) there was a design brief to develop the old council depot behind Vulcan Close. After consulting nearby residents we got a clause inserted that any developer would have to do something about calming traffic on Woodmans Hill.
  • In 2003/4 (again I can’t remember the exact date) planning permission was granted with a condition that before the 19th unit was occupied the developers put traffic calming measures on Woodmans Hill.
  • By October 2005 half the houses were built and show homes were seeing a regular stream of visitors, despite the houses being tremendously expensive for what they are.
  • Early in 2006 the houses and flats were starting to fill up. I asked my local councillor ((three guesses who)) about it and they asked questions on my behalf. The answer was that the developers wanted to do their S106 work around Christmas 2005 but were asked to postpone it until after the holidays.
  • By mid-2007 the estate was complete and full and no traffic calming had been done at all. A friendly reporter made some enquiries for me and was told by the council’s planning department that the work had already been done.
  • Early this year I heard a rumour from a very trusted source that one of the councils had pursued the developers through the courts to get them to fulfil their obligations and that work would be carried out over Easter. I wasn’t sure whether that meant Easter weekend or the schools’ Easter holidays so I waited until both had been and gone, and still nothing has happened.

And that is where we are today. More than 30 months after building started and at least two years after the places were occupied and traffic still zooms up and down Woodmans Hill – with its school crossing at the bottom – totally uncalmed. And then… I open up Crawley Live to be told about all the good things being done under Section 106. It is frustrating.

And now a little postscript to all of that by way of some things I found on the Internet:

Thing one: according to this document, Belwinch Homes won an award for the development at Highwood Park. The award was for “South East Pride in the Job 2006” Not too proud to wriggle out of their legal obligations though. How proud will they be if someone is run down at the bottom of the hill?

Thing two: its probably nothing, but on both Google Maps and Multimap the road layout at Highwood Park is wrong. They both show access directly from the A23 via the junction for Broadfield House. Why is that? The original plan was very clear that access should be via Woodmans Hill so that the new houses were not isolated and would be a proper part of Broadfield, and that is how they were built. How did a map showing access via the A23 ever get drawn up?

Thing three: on the mouseprice site Highwood Park is listed as the No. 43 in the list of most expensive streets in the whole RH11 postcode area. Must have been a nice little earner for Bellwinch homes. Not that I entirely believe that site – my own road is up in the 20s on that list and it is almost entirely rented social housing.

So, Section 106. It can be a good thing, but sometimes it is not worth the paper it is written on.

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Mr Mike

    I thought Jim McGough was the County Councillor, should he sort this. Why has he not got some thing done about this

  • Danivon

    Because it’s the Borough Council’s job to enforce their own planning application conditions?

  • Skuds

    Jim has been looking into it for me, but as Danivon says the agreement is between the developers and Crawley council and its a legal contract between those two parties.

  • Mr Mike

    Bellwinch homes will do nothing now that they have sold the properties, this should of been sorted when the planning was originally put through.

    We can only lobby West Sussex to install some traffic calming measure now. Any suggestions.

  • Mr Mike

    I think we are all singing off the same song sheet here. Who was in the Chair of planning or on the planning team from the Council that approved all this. We should find out if they are still on the Council and ask them why they accepted the plans from Bellwinch to make so much money at the expense of Broadfield residents and leave such a mess behind.

  • Danivon

    Mr Mike…

    When the planning permission was given, it was the planning department and the Councillors who _added_ and passed the provision that the developer had to submit to the S106 agreement. It’s now a contractual matter between CBC and the developer to get the work paid for and done, and so just because the houses are complete, the developer cannot just walk away.

    Unless CBC let them, that is. One would hope that the local Borough councillors would be on the case.

  • Skuds

    One of the reasons why I get so pissed off about this particular site is that, unless I am mistaken, I was chairing the committee that gave planning permission! (And Danivon would have been on the same committee)

    We made a point of making traffic calming a condition of the permission, but by the time it got built we were not involved any more.

    I have thought for a long time that the council is weak on enforcement, mainly because of a lack of resources in that area.

    We can lobby for traffic calming, but there are many places in town that need it: it could be years or decades before it gets to the top of the list. Thats why I was so pleased we (seemingly) got it as part of a S106: it by-passed the waiting list.

  • Cllrmcg

    Better late than never, I suppose. I seem to have been chasing the County engineers up for ever on this one. The recent delays can partly be put down again (ah yawn….) to a public utility provider. But now, I am assured, work will commence on the construction of a mini roundabout at the junction of Iveagh Close and Woodman’s Hill at the start of the summer school vacation…… Now whether this is an appropriate traffic calming measure is the subject of another (historical) debate but that was clearly a Borough Council issue so if I can have Pilate’s bowl I’ll wash my hands now.

  • Skuds

    Thats good to hear Jim. I hope it is not yet another false dawn.

    I am also unconvinced that a mini roundabout is the best solution and only accepted it as being better than nothing, but maybe we will be pleasantly surprised. At the moment the road is one big accident waiting to happen, especially now I am cycling on it sometimes…

  • Roundabout

    […] I noticed that there are some roadworks on Woodman’s Hill.  Dare we hope that these are the long-overdue traffic-calming measures that were part of the S106 planning conditions on the Highwood Park […]