The inspector agreed that the scheme was acceptable in principle, with the benefits of the new homes in an area of need outweighing any limited adverse impacts. The only bone of contention revolved around the requirements of a section 106 agreement providing for a contribution towards monitoring of a travel plan for the development.
Since the site would adjoin a key service centre, the inspector found that it was well located for access to local facilities and public transport options. Given the scheme’s size, he accepted that a travel plan was necessary to ensure that assumptions and projections around traffic growth, modal split and traffic impact on the surrounding highway network were robust. He found that the travel plan was directly related to the development as it would address its effect and it would be appropriate to secure it through a section 106 agreement.
However, the proposed section 106 agreement required submission of an annual monitoring report to demonstrate that the travel plan’s objectives and targets were being achieved in full. It also specified an annual financial contribution of £1,000 to the county council to cover officer time spent in assessing the submitted reports. It was this latter aspect that was in dispute.
The inspector noted that the county council did not propose to employ additional staff for this task and had provided no breakdown of the likely time or costs incurred in undertaking the work in-house. In his view, the workload and costs involved did not justify the level of the proposed contribution.
He found that this element of the section 106 provisions did not meet the test of being fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind, contrary to paragraph 204 of the NPPF. In reaching this decision, he referred to Oxfordshire County Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Others , where the court did not exclude the possibility that monitoring fees could satisfy the tests of reasonableness but made clear that these should only be used in exceptional circumstances.
Inspector: Kenneth Stone; Hearing