Greenwich Council finally publishes information on £1/4bn funding

After years of prevarication and delay, Greenwich Council’s Cabinet decided to publish details of its Section 106 payments online for the first time this evening.

Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) allows local authorities to seek financial contributions from planning applicants in order to make the application acceptable. This “S106” is a legally binding agreement between the council and the developer. It could be a financial contribution for affordable homes elsewhere in the borough in return for a lower requirement, or none, at the development or transport and public realm improvements to mitigate the impact.

While this was first promised in July 2015’s Planning Obligations (s106) Guidance it has taken rather a long time, with numerous resident enquiries and Freedom of Information requests, to get this far.

An excerpt from July 2015’s Royal Greenwich Supplementary Planning Guidance

Despite private assurances from the Denise Hyland (Labour – Abbey Wood – Greenwich Council Leader) last year that all S106 information was published and available online, tonight’s Cabinet papers reveal a different story.

Excerpt from the 2017 S106 Annual Financial Report

However, one important piece of information is missing from the published information – the “Deferred Liability Date” for each agreement at which the monies must have been spent – as S106 agreements have time limits after which the funds are no longer available.

When this website first started investigating the figures back in 2015 we eventually received confirmation from the Directorate of Regeneration, Enterprise and Skills that this had happened with a number of agreements. These agreements, totalling nearly £1.5m, had expired and required renegotiation.

In the spirit of true transparency we hope the council will commit to amending the published document with this information, as quickly as possible.

Why is this important?

Notwithstanding the constant cry of “Government cuts”, and the supersedence of S106 with the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), these Section 106 payments represent a massive revenue stream for our local areas which could be used to make things a lot better. Even with CIL taking its place, S106 raised over £91m for the Council in the 2015-2016 financial year.

Ward S106 Secured S106 received S106 Secured but
not yet received
S106 Spent
Abbey Wood 1,358,514 1,308,514 50,000 837,960
Blackheath Westcombe 860,516 860,516 0 838,300
Charlton 1,658,661 1,523,915 134,746 1,257,245
Coldharbour & New Eltham 321,505 230,156 91,349 57,942
Eltham North 475,519 326,411 214,159 306,411
Eltham South 1,168,322 1,057,322 111,000 897,459
Eltham West 47,834,095 10,711,856 33,372,239 7,759,103
Glyndon 2,500,532 2,198,132 302,400 1,910,933
Greenwich West 22,682,507 17,010,084 5,672,423 11,045,886
Kidbrooke with Hornfair 1,595,246 1,574,246 21,000 1,469,250
Middle Park & Sutcliffe 433,435 433,435 0 364,700
Peninsula 127,238,145 31,664,135 95,553,057 12,583,138
Plumstead 1,220,028 1,220,028 0 625,690
Shooters Hill 204,986 204,986 0 171,615
Thamesmead Moorings 6,942,874 6,499,474 443,400 6,077,397
Woolwich Common 10,549,608 1,969,194 8,580,414 1,182,642
Woolwich Riverside 50,567,085 21,088,974 29,453,111 14,803,890
Totals 277,611,578 99,881,378 173,999,298 62,189,560

These agreements can take a long time to pay out but there’s over £37m in the kitty right now, with another £174m yet to come. Greenwich’s S106s have been split into categories of use and you can see the proportions below.

Category S106 Secured S106 Received S106 Secured but
not yet received
S106 Spent S106 Remaining
Affordable Housing 50,237,512 8,211,812 42,025,700 3,095,000 5,116,812
Carbon Offset 527,521 117,038 410,483 0 117,038
CCTV 44,205 44,205 0 0 44,205
Cultural Strategy 5,921,554 4,705,781 1,215,773 4,173,692 532,089
Education 71,782,963 31,504,502 36,593,513 20,049,937 11,454,565
Emergency Services 3,385,313 452,948 2,881,590 0 452,948
Employment 39,363,477 16,896,016 22,467,461 13,752,557 3,143,459
Environmental Monitoring 4,461,806 2,013,877 2,447,929 1,089,446 924,431
Health 10,449,375 2,537,320 7,912,055 395,458 2,141,862
Local Community 10,899,519 4,761,878 6,137,641 3,070,933 1,690,945
Monitoring & Compliance 3,247,773 1,836,395 1,441,197 1,311,343 525,053
Open Space 7,242,577 2,152,537 5,090,040 790,460 1,362,077
Professional Fees 229,050 229,050 0 228,750 300
Public Art 398,274 171,392 226,882 138,000 33,392
Public Realm 8,920,779 4,105,362 4,815,417 2,980,959 1,124,403
Public Safety 4,651,025 2,415,567 2,235,458 1,595,290 820,277
Social Services 5,234,188 854,888 4,379,301 289,784 565,104
Sport General 4,821,848 598,954 4,222,894 28,897 570,057
Transport General 44,748,926 16,054,467 28,669,458 9,191,855 6,862,613
Waste Management 1,043,895 217,389 826,506 7,200 210,189
TOTALS 277,611,578 99,881,378 173,999,298 62,189,560 37,691,818

With any large, draft dataset like this there are a number of questions on some lines. Berkeley Homes’ Ferrier Estate agreement for planning reference 08/2782/O shows a signed S106 for £10.3m to be spent on education. £6.55m has been received and £5.291m spent on Thomas Tallis School but the figures appear to show £3.75m unaccounted for.

Additionally, there are eight S106 agreements with blank figures for the amounts secured. We’ve asked for clarification and hope there’s an answer at next week’s full Council meeting.

It’s admirable that Greenwich are finally beginning to embrace transparency and Open Data after years of asking about this, and other, datasets held by the council. However, the format (PDF) leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve converted the draft document into a more useable format and we’ll look at something even better when the final document is published.

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