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Letter: Where is our Missing £11.5 Million? – A Warning to Other Wards

Published on: 16 May, 2022
Updated on: 16 May, 2022

From: Sue Wyeth-Price

In response to: A Good Walk Spoiled – The Gulf Between Proficient Planning and What We Have and £300,000 ‘Community Money’ at Risk of Being Returned to Developers

Last month GBC published their report on Section 106 contributions*. The S1.06 report clearly demonstrates that the councils (GBC and SCC) are sitting on over £11.5 million of unspent contributions from developers, some going back 18 years. The majority has been collected by GBC since 2017.

This hoarding of money allocated to make developments acceptable in planning terms, and “necessary” for the development (the reason for contributions in the first place), is simply unforgiveable, as is the lack of explanation by the councils on why this has happened, or on what they propose to do to rectify the situation.

Analysis of these against the reality of the situation in Ash and Tongham should be a real Red Flag to the rest of the borough. In housing development terms, we are three years ahead of Send, Effingham and Clandon and Horsley, and about five years ahead of Wisley. This is what the residents of those areas can expect.

The report itself is highly inaccurate. I can only speak on Ash South and Tongham, Ash Wharf and Ash Vale, but I would expect the situation to be the same elsewhere in the borough.

Some applications which have not been completely built out yet are not included in the list.

Some applications which have been completed, but where the work funded by contributions has not taken place, are not on the list.

Applications, where the council claim to have received and spent all the contributions, are not on the list, even though it is obvious the work has not been completed.

This results in no one being able to get a true picture of whether money has been spent in the appropriate fashion on the items the contributions were supposed to fund. The report cannot even sum up its own figures correctly.

In Ash South and Tongham, we are aware of at least a £5 million completely missing from the report, bringing the total that should have been accounted for to a huge £16.5 million. This is just one single ward.

Despite the 1,300-plus homes already approved, and largely built out now, in Ash South and Tongham, the councils have collected, but not spent, over £7 million in our area alone, yet only five of the 21 local infrastructure projects included in the local plan have been completed. The rest haven’t even been started.

These are not small issues. The missing contributions cover a huge range of things including drainage, roads, healthcare and education. This will explain why our local primary schools have waiting lists of more than 15 children, and pupils are being sent to Puttenham.

GBC does not appear to have a process to ensure that monies handed to other authorities is spent appropriately. And so the final insult to residents is that monies handed to other authorities may be spent in Waverley, Rushmoor, Surrey Heath and in the case of the local Clinical Commissioning Group, as far away as Marlow, Buckinghamshire, despite the commitments in the agreements.

I have analysed 24 separate S.106 agreements affecting my local wards in the west of the borough. I do not have the capacity to analyse the entire borough. I hope residents do the same for their own wards and push for improvements and the appropriate disbursal of the money.

The council collected £62,520 from developers last year alone to pay for the management of the agreements. Whatever they did with these contributions, it certainly was not money well spent!

*section 106 agreement is an agreement between a developer and a local planning authority about measures that the developer must take to reduce their impact on the community.

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test 3 Responses to Letter: Where is our Missing £11.5 Million? – A Warning to Other Wards

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 16, 2022 at 10:03 pm

    Firstly, thanks to Sue for doing the enormous amount of work to find out about this money.

    I too would like an explanation from our council officers and elected councillors, where is this money, why hasn’t it been spent and what procedures will now put in place to make sure these contributions are used correctly and in a timely manner?

    I really am losing faith with our council, how can we get some help from higher up the chain and make some changes?

  2. Lisa Wright Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    Firstly, thanks to Sue Wyeth-Price for doing the enormous amount of work to find out about this money.

    I too would like an explanation from our council officers and elected councillors. Where is this money, why hasn’t it been spent and what procedures will now be put in place to make sure these contributions are used correctly and in a timely manner?

    I really am losing faith in our council. How can we get some help from higher up the chain and make some changes?

  3. Helen Jefferies Reply

    May 24, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    This is outrageous. Where are funds and what is the GBC Executive doing to remedy the situation? There needs to be a complete moratorium on large planning applications until this problem has been bottomed out.

    Councillors are paid to oversee the officers and staff. It is time that they stepped up and justified to the electorate the real situation.

    Sounds like heads need to roll.

    Helen Jefferies is a Wisley Action Group campaigner.

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