Housing developers set to face new charges to help fund Barnsley's public transport

A watered-down version of a so-called ‘bedroom tax’ on new homes in Barnsley will be considered by senior councillors next week in a move which could still provide millions of pounds to be invested in public transport across the borough.

Thursday, 29th August 2019, 16:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th September 2019, 16:32 pm
Priorities: Barnsley Council has already drawn up plans to develop rail links

If adopted, the policy would mean developers behind schemes with ten or more homes would have to pay towards the costs of improving public transport in the area.

It is estimated the policy could result in more than £12m being made available from major developments already in the pipeline as part of the council’s Local Plan, the blueprint for housing expansion into the 2030s.

Those contributions could be used to attract ‘match funding’, meaning they could open the door to much larger investments but homes in some areas, such as the town centre, would face reduced charges as an acknowledgement to the fact occupiers would be close to the facilities they would otherwise travel to use.

However, the proposal would be less punitive on developers than original proposals, which would have based contributions on the number of bedrooms in each new home, leaving some in the industry to describe the plan as a ‘bedroom tax’.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Under council plans, the charge would be one of a suite of costs facing developers opting to build in the borough.

They would also be expected to contribute towards the impact of educating extra children in the district, to provide affordable homes and towards making sure there is enough green space in areas where their new housing goes up.

Details of the charges for public transport contributions will form one of a package of Special Planning Documents, aimed at helping smooth out the process of major planning applications and the associated costs developers will be expected to bear in future.

A package of SPDs have already been adopted, but the first proposals for the public transport contributions were withdrawn for further work and in an updated form will now go before the council’s ruling Cabinet, where members are being recommended to approve the details.

It is acknowledged that not all housing schemes will be profitable enough to support all the charges proposed by the council and some applications have already been subject to financial scrutiny, with compromise deals because it has been accepted they would be unprofitable if all charges were applied. In those cases, priorities are set for where available funds from developers are directed.

A site off Carlton Road, Athersley, is among those currently under consideration, with developers arguing their profit margin would be squeezed too far if they were forced to make expected contributions.

A decision on that application has still to be made.

Councillors have been warned that failure to adopt the new SPD would result in a “vacuum” in the authority’s planning advice.