Town planning and NHS funding
There’s an interesting article in the November/December issue of National Health Executive profiling Aahsan Rahman, head of NHS Property Services Town Planning division.
One of his jobs is to help the NHS to take advantage of section 106 funding for the NHS which currently remains underused in some areas. This reflects one of the inherent criticisms of the section 106 regime – that it is always administered locally – and therefore utilisation is very patchy right across England and Wales.
The NHE article makes clear that Mr Rahman and his colleagues are enthusiastic proponents of the Government’s proposals set out in the White Paper “Planning for the Future”, for reducing or even removing s106 altogether in favour of a single infrastructure levy.
As my blog on the White Paper made clear, s106 makes a good whipping boy for all the ills of planning, but the legislation has a huge amount to offer society when the system it serves is properly resourced – certainly in comparison to a flat rate tax whose shortcomings have been well demonstrated already in the CIL regime. That is not to say that s106 is flawless, either. But in some cases a better solution might be in a tweak to the system rather than a venture into a brave new world.
An alternative solution to the problem of patchy utilisation of funds would involve better use of s106. For example it would be relatively straightforward to allow local NHS trusts to receive s106 contributions direct. As the article points out, “[a]s part of a body of work which Aahsan and his colleagues carried out… there were millions of pounds of funding for the NHS, through s106 planning obligations, sitting unallocated or missed.” So it is not that the money is not being captured by s106, but rather that it is not subsequently being passed on to the body that is entitled to use it. It is that kind of unnecessary bureaucracy that results in monies not being captured or spent. So giving the NHS the statutory powers to be a recipient of health contributions would improve utilisation of s106 monies at a stroke.
Oliver Bussell is an experienced planning and s106 lawyer based in Rix & Kay’s Sevenoaks office. For an informal chat about any planning or development issues email firstname.lastname@example.org, Partner in Rix & Kay’s Commercial Property and Planning Team.