As the Ashford borough grows so does the need for more, or improved, community facilities, buildings and infrastructure. This is where section 106 (s106) payments come in and make a big difference to the borough.
S106 agreements are legal arrangements between the council and developers in the borough. The agreements are connected to requests for planning permission around the borough and are created when the borough council’s planning team assess that a potential development will have an impact on the local area (such as placing extra pressure on local roads and creating the need for a new school or leisure facilities).
The aim is for the delivered benefits to make a positive contribution to the local area and community and the items that s106 funds provide for range from small community projects to large infrastructure works.
The contributions, from developers, are an important revenue source that helps to support the sustainable growth that Ashford has, while at the same time improving community life.
At last night’s Cabinet meeting, members heard that in the 2016-17 financial year £3.3m of s106 money had been spent by Ashford Borough and Kent County Council (KCC). This includes £705,000 that has been spent by KCC on new schools, libraries, adult social services and funding the local primary care trust.
Projects that have either been funded by, or made possible as a result of s106 agreements include a range of affordable housing schemes in rural areas (The Spires, in St Michael’s Tenterden and Quarry House in Aldington) as well as Kestrel Park, which is a play facility in south Ashford that opened in June and is already proving hugely popular.
The Repton Community Centre, which is currently under construction, the proposed Bridgefields Sports and Leisure scheme and the multi-use games area at Kingsnorth have also been funded in this way.
The council signed s106 agreements totalling £114m in the 2016-17 financial year though this figure is inflated on the normal level due to the value of the complex s106 agreement signed in relation to the outline planning permission granted for Chilmington Green.
Cllr Paul Clokie, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for planning and development, said: “Section 106 agreements are proven to benefit the communities we serve. Across the borough affordable housing, play facilities, parks and community buildings have been created. They have enhanced life for residents and added to the attraction of the borough.
“As Ashford continues to grow, it is important that we continue to seek contributions from developers to provide the vital infrastructure that keeps the borough moving, that help us prepare for the needs of an ageing population and that create fun spaces in which local children can play. Members were heartened to see the benefits delivered by the robustness of the agreements sought by the council’s planning team.”