Council to consider options over change to key agreement

Morpeth councillors are hoping a change to an important obligation under planning laws will enable it to be more proactive in getting contributions for the community.

Section 106 (S106) agreements are often put in place by local authorities for major developments.

They result in firms and organisations committing to fund infrastructure, community facilities and/or affordable housing in the area surrounding the site.

The county council’s S106 officer has informed some parish and town councils that a new procedure will be introduced and it will involve them being asked to submit detailed local information.

Morpeth Town Council’s planning and transport committee discussed the potential for additional staffing or consultancy work to help with the process going forward.

Coun David Parker said: “I feel that we need to be more proactive about Section 106 because local knowledge in this process has been almost non-existent going back many years, including the Castle Morpeth days.

“The county community officer is looking at the big picture and won’t have the same commitment, in a way, to the local situation. This is not a criticism, it’s a matter of fact.”

Coun Bob Robertson said he agreed that the council should have more input into the process, but members should not at this stage agree to employ a specialist officer.

He added: “We don’t simply follow everything county officers say, but we have an excellent relationship with them and I feel that we can work together on this until we get more information about the new procedure.”

A proposal for the finance committee to consider provision in the 2016/17 budget for additional staffing/consultancy in relation to S106 was acceptable to him and it was passed unanimously.