Council won't be investigated over handling of legal agreement

Breckland District Council

Breckland Council has launched a new video appointment system. - Credit: Ian Burt

The local government ombudsman will not investigate the handling of a historic legal agreement at a Norfolk council, while a councillor has called for an investigation into their use. 

Breckland Council was accused of mishandling a 2013 Section 106 agreement - an agreement between a developer and planning authority to reduce impact by funding local public amenities. 

The council had been accused of failing to seek payment in time by a man identified as Mr B

Stuart Green, 27, the new mayor of Dereham, and believed to be the youngest they have ever had. Pict

Mayor of Dereham Stuart Green, recently said the town council was considering whether to take “further action” over Breckland's approval of 100 homes - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

A report by the ombudsman said: “The developers agreed not to allow occupation of a prescribed number of dwellings on the site until they had paid a recreation contribution.  

“Mr B told us there is play equipment in the area which would have benefitted from an upgrade. 

“Mr B complained that the council failed to invoice the developers for the recreation contribution until two years after they had completed the development.” 

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Breckland has since admitted “insufficient monitoring” of the legal agreement but said this had now improved. 

A Breckland Council spokesperson said: “We are confident that we can effectively monitor local s106 obligations through our dedicated S106 monitoring officer and computer software.  

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“Our revised procedures and regular site visits ensure we can identify when payment triggers are reached and we contact developers promptly to release funds.” 

Explaining why they would not be investigating Mr B’s complaint, the ombudsman said there was insufficient justification he had “suffered significant enough injustice”. 

This is not the first time concerns have been raised about Breckland council’s handling of S106 agreements.  

Breckland councillor Roger Atterwill is warning communities will be up in armswhen reality sinks in.

Councillor Roger Atterwill called for an internal investigation into the district counci's handling of Section 106 agreements - Credit: Archant

In 2018 the council had to admit they had misinterpreted planning policy which dictates the amount of outdoor playing space required for a development

While last month Dereham Town Council accuse Breckland of repeated the error in approving plans for 100 homes in Toftwood, Dereham

This led to councillor Roger Atterwill calling for an internal investigation at a district council meeting on Thursday, February 25. 

He said: “This is not the first time in recent history Breckland community has felt, rightly or wrongly, let down by this council’s management of such agreements. Indeed, some have lost important amenities. 

“To get Breckland's renewed confidence in our planning system will you commit to undertaking a thorough internal review of the council's S106 process, including outsourcing of such important work?” 

Paul Claussen, cabinet member for planning, said he would discuss it with the chairman of the planning committee. 

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