Wigan residents asked how to distribute £8m windfall

Hundreds of new houses are being built in Standish, putting a strain on services
Hundreds of new houses are being built in Standish, putting a strain on services

An influx of housing across Wigan borough has seen developers hand over £8m to the council in the last five years, new figures reveal.

The cash, in the form of section 106 payments, comes from negotiations during the planning process to make bids ‘more acceptable’ to local authorities.

A breakdown of the developer contributions also shows around half of the funds are still available for community improvement projects.

The funds are ring-fenced for specific projects, such as to provide affordable housing or creating open space and play facilities or improving transport links.

Town hall bosses say the delay in allocating the cash to specific schemes is in part due to the contributions arriving in instalments.

The last financial year, 2017/18, was the most lucrative with the town hall receiving £2,232,383, one of the highest returns across Greater Manchester.

Council leader David Molyneux said the money contributes to the authority’s ‘key priority’ of ensuring ‘communities and town centres are able to grow.’

The figures, released following a freedom of information request, reveal £2.2m, £1.8m, £1.02m, £1.3m and £1.6m were received in each of the last five financial years, totalling just over £8m.

And as of the final quarter of 2018, around half of the total is still available for future schemes.

More than £990,000 allocated for education (to fund school redevelopment for more pupil places) is uncommitted along with £131,000 reserved to improve air quality and £771,000 to be spent on affordable housing.

Marie Bintley, assistant director for growth and housing, said: “Money received through section 106 funding is made up of contributions that can be paid in instalments as the development is built out and some of the schemes require the pooling of contributions.

“So when we’re working on a project we often have to wait until all of the money has been received to have the appropriate capital sum.”

The cash can also be ring-fenced for area specific development in wards that have seen a particular influx of housing schemes.

Standish, Golborne and Lowton are subject to their own levies, the figures reveal, with £922,000 and £836,000 available, respectively.

The more than £2m received last year will benefit areas such as Atherton, Bryn, Golborne, Astley, Hindley, Tyldesley, Leigh, Orrell, the town hall has previously revealed.

Coun James Grundy, Conservative representative for Lowton East, said: “There’s a substantial amount available for Lowton and some of it has been used on the refurbishment of St Mary’s Community Hall. We have already been meeting with constituents to outline priorities for dipping into that pot and we have been meeting with senior officers.”

Coun Susan Gambles, Labour representative for Golborne and Lowton West, said: “We are supporting and working with a number of community groups in the area that quite rightly want to have an influence on how the money is spent locally.

“Officers from the council have attended some of the meetings that we also support, to listen to what local people have to say.

“As elected members we will not lose sight of the opportunity that this funding would offer to the locality and we are continuing to champion this on behalf of the local community in discussion with senior officers of the council, who also want to ensure that the money is spent to provide maximum impact for the area.”

Standish village is set to see a 25pc population increase in the next six years because of the number of housing developments within its boundary.

A spokesman for Standish Voice, the area’s neighbourhood forum, said: “The council has promised that all the 106 agreement money generated by the huge house building programme in Standish will remain in Standish to pay for much-needed infrastructure and schemes to allow the village to cope with the large increase in population it faces.

“Standish Neighbourhood Plan (that could be adopted later this year) brings forward schemes that can improve our community and we will be working with Wigan Council and others to make sure they are put in place.”

In a previous statement about the council’s section 106 funds, council leader Coun Molyneux said: “Once a planning application comes through, we assess the proposed scheme against a range of impacts that the development may have on the local area.

“If a scheme is assessed to have adverse impacts on the local area, we will seek to negotiate a contribution from the applicant in line with the criteria set out in the local policy framework.

“One of our key priorities is to ensure communities and town centres are able to grow and propser.

“And this contribution could go towards infrastructure improvements, the provision of affordable housing or open space, which can help improve local areas.”