Council asked to keep 'compensation' cash in communities where new homes are constructed
One of Barnsley's newest councillors is challenging the authority's policy over the way it uses money used to compensate for the negative effects of housing developments after learning Â£400,000 generated from building in the Penistone district would be spent elsewhere in the borough.
Coun Hannah Kitching has represented the Penistone West ward since the local elections in May and has highlighted the situation because she said she believed Penistone and its surrounding villages deserved a “fair deal” from the use of cash provided by developers to offset the impact of their work.
That is paid through an arrangement called ‘Section 106’ where housebuilders responsible for major developments are expected to pay towards providing facilities which will help meet the demands additional residents will put on communities.
But Coun Kitching said since joining the authority, she has learned that although more than Â£400,000 has been generated from Section 106 agreements in the district, money has been allocated to projects in east of the borough, including Wombwell and Darfield.
Now she wants a new system introduced which she believes would be fairer by supporting communities which have experienced major developments and need investment to help offset the effect of that expansion.
She said: “Residents in Penistone are told repeatedly that no money is available for basic services - for bin calendars, for road repairs, for public transport and better bus services, for our broadband infrastructure, to improve our parks.
“Yet when an opportunity arises to improve our infrastructure, the council have unfairly decided to spend the money elsewhere.
“Our schools are suffering as a result of the huge number of developments in the area – the area is under huge pressure with intakes rising every year and schools being ever more stretched.
“Previously outstanding schools are now unable to fund the services and activities required to achieve that status and parents are constantly being asked to subsidise school activities.
“Hoylandswaine school is under such financial pressure that it is now having to end its school day at 3pm, therefore losing 2.5 hours per week of teaching time. Unfortunately it is children’s education that will suffer.
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“To make matters worse, Hoylandswaine school recently applied for Section 106 monies but their application was turned down.
“It has now become evident that Â£326,000 of monies generated from housing development in Hoylandswaine, plus an additional Â£80,000 from development in Penistone is to be spent elsewhere in the borough, particularly in Wombwell and Darfield wards.
“This is devastating for the people of the Penistone community, who are seeing more and more housing development alongside a deterioration in infrastructure.
“Our area is not getting a fair deal from Barnsley Council and that needs to change,” she said.
There has been a history of complaints in the Penistone area about how Barnsley Council allocates resources to the area, with longstanding concerns about affordable housing, which should now make up a part of all large new developments.
However, builders can strike a deal with local authorities to offer a cash payment instead and in the Penistone area that has frequently happened, with the resulting affordable homes – usually for rent or shared ownership – built many miles away.
That situation has recently been recognised, with a new commitment to ensure affordable homes are built in the communities where new developments go up.
Penistone has also been given a higher target of providing 30 per cent of all new homes for ‘affordable’ use, to reflect the area’s high prices and the difficulties people face in getting onto the housing ladder in the district.
Barnsley Council did not respond to a request for comment.