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Camden £24m planning windfall cash stuck in council coffers as community projects lack funding

PUBLISHED: 17:00 03 May 2013 | UPDATED: 17:55 03 May 2013

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File name :DSC_0010.JPG; File size :628.6KB (643708 bytes); Date taken :Sat, Mar 30, 2002 1:06:15 pm; Image size :2000 x 1312; Resolution :300 x 300 dpi; Number of bits :8 bits/channel; Protection :Off; Camera ID :N/A; Camera :NIKON D1; Quality mode :NORMAL; Metering mode :Matrix; Exposure mode :Aperture priority; Speed light :Off; Focal length :85.0 mm; Shutte

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Camden Council is sitting on more than £25million of unspent planning cash earmarked for new community facilities.

An investigation by the Ham&High has revealed the authority received £45.7m in Section 106 payments in the past 11 years but only £21.6m has been spent.

Section 106 agreements relate to money paid by developers to local authorities to off-set the impact of a new development.

The money can be used for road improvements, affordable housing, schools, or local amenities, which are built after the development is completed.

Figures from a Freedom of Information request show the closing balance for all Section 106 activity at Camden Council is £26.5m, which includes £2.3m received before 2001.

The news comes after opposition councillors said there was a lack of transparency about how Section 106 money was being allocated, despite there being community projects desperate for funding.

A motion calling for a debate on how Section 106 money is used was put forward by Liberal Democrat councillors at the full council meeting on April 15.

But members of the Lib Dem group walked out in protest before the motion could be heard, accusing the Labour administration of delaying the discussion.

West Hampstead councillor John Bryant said the decision-making process about how Section 106 funds are allocated is “shrouded in mystery”.

He said: “The figures don’t surprise me. The final decision making process, when there is some money for a suitable scheme, is extremely opaque with very little democratic oversight and that’s our worry.”

He said decisions about how to spend 106 deposits should be made by ward councillors after consulting with their constituents.

He also accused the council of holding on to Section 106 cash to increase the interest earned.

“The councillors are getting involved in negotiating 106 agreements but how they are then processed is a murky world indeed,” said Cllr Bryant.

“For that much to still be in council coffers – there’s no mechanism for councillors to progress schemes which are justified and where there is money to pay for them.”

Cllr Valerie Leach, cabinet member for regeneration and growth, said: “The council has been highly successful in securing funding through Section 106 agreements.

“To fund our large projects, we pool together funding from a number of developers.

“We have more than £20m for ongoing projects that will benefit our local communities. These include improvements to schools, such as the new Camden Centre for Learning and a new primary school at King’s Cross.

“We are also funding transport improvements and renewing highways, parks and open spaces in our local communities.

“We remain committed ensuring that funds are spent as effectively as possible to benefit our communities.”

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