Changes needed to make council’s developers contributions policy workable

Building developments
Building developments

At yesterday’s meeting of the Economy, Environment and Infrastucture committee in Dumfries, the way developers’ contributions are levied were due to be overhauled.

Dumfries and Galloway Council recently introduced a policy of making developers pay a financial contribution towards local schools, infrastructure and community facilities to build in the same area. But some developers balked at this saying that it could make building in certain areas unviable.

Following discussions at Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee on January 19, Members requested more information and guidance on proposed changes to Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance.

Some of the issues Members were concerned with included:

*Perception that contribution makes 1 and 2 house developments unviable

*Should contribution be based on number of units or plot size?

*Should RSL developments be excluded from paying contribution? Why aren’t community based housing trusts included in exemption?

*Should list of exclusions be widened?

*Contribution resulting in less development - potential impact on local economy and on rural development.

*PPP schools and need for contribution?

Following consultation with Councillors a further report will be presented at Thursday’s meeting.

The affordable housing exemption should be extended to include other not for profit affordable housing providers.

The current list of exclusions should be extended to include: Flats above shops; Development that brings derelict property back into residential use; Conversion of buildings to residential; and Replacement of a house which is habitable.

Options have also been proposed on the issue of exempting small scale developments and ensuring developers are aware of the current significant exemptions.

1: Should small scale development (1 and 2 units) which do not form part of an allocated development site be exempt from development? – Option one: Add 1 and 2 unit developments to the list of developments currently excluded from making a contribution. Option 2: Introduce a sliding scale discount for small scale developments. Single unit developments would receive 80% discount and 2 unit developments would receive 60% discount.

2: Provide more guidance on development viability – Option one: Provide more guidance on how to carry out a development appraisal including a template setting out how to structure a development appraisal. Option 2: No change to the guidance.

Chair of EEI Committee, Colin Smyth stated: “I think everyone accepts the argument for developer contributions which are common place across Scotland. If a development is likely to lead to the need for example to expand capacity at a local school, then it is reasonable to expect a developer to make some contribution to the extra cost the Council would incur. However, as Councillors we were concerned at the unforeseen impact of what was a new policy in particular when it comes to small developments. I suggested at the last meeting that officers held a seminar with members to allow us to feed in some suggested changes to the policy and the Committee will get the opportunity to consider those suggestions at the next meeting. It is also clear that developers are unaware that if the contributions would have resulted in a development not being viable, then they would have been exempt from contributions, so it is important that better information and guidance is provided on this. It is important that people are not discouraged from taking on small scale projects or even from building their own homes. Developments have an important part to play in supporting our local economy and local communities through helping families stay in the area”.