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CNPA approves supplementary planning guidance on Developer Contributions

22nd July 2011

Planning gain has become a key part of achieving developments planned in the Cairngorms National Park but what is planning gain? When a new playground is built next to a housing development or a new bus route appears when a new supermarket is built – the chances are it’s come about because of Planning Gain. This tried and tested method involves asking developers to contribute towards something in the community which would suffer as a result of new development and is often referred to as ‘developer contributions’.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) planning committee, meeting today (Friday 22nd July), approved the adoption of the organisation’s Developer Contributions guidance which will help to address the impacts of development throughout the Park.

The CNPA has adopted this approach and has drawn on the experience and expertise – totalling some 10 years – of Aberdeenshire Council’s Planning Gain Team to ensure community facilities in the Park aren’t squeezed by new development.

Developer contributions are a well-established way to secure a contribution from development to help address the impacts it may have on facilities and infrastructure, such as schools, healthcare, community facilities and landscaping. While this system already operates throughout the Park, the guidance approved by the CNPA planning committee today brings a new level of consistency and transparency to the way contributions are sought.

Hamish Trench, Strategic Land Use Director at the CNPA said: “The CNPA is committed to implementing government policy as best it can which means finding a balance between ensuring there’s a profit in a development so they go ahead while making sure the communities and special qualities of the National Park are not adversely affected. The common perception is these contributions are unfair and just something else that pushes up the price of buildings – that simply isn’t true. The level of contribution depends solely on the direct impact a development will have on an area. It is in no way a development tax. We will work with developers early on to establish what, if any, level of contribution is required.”

This is a common approach used across Scotland and developers will be required to make a fair and reasonable contribution in cash or kind towards the additional costs or requirements where there is a need to increase or improve public services as a result of development.

Peter Argyle, deputy convener of the CNPA Planning Committee, said the policy should be seen as a positive way of supporting and delivering sustainable economic development.

“We wish to see sustainable economic development within the Park. For that to happen, developments must be economically viable which means we will look at both developer contributions and affordable housing requirements to ensure what is being asked is fair and reasonable.”

There was a public consultation on the guidance earlier this year and Mr Argyle said it had been a useful process to allow the CNPA to address developers’ concerns.

“We welcome the comments made during the recent public consultation and have taken them into account. What we have now is a document which describes clearly what developer contributions are and how they will be used,” he added.

“It was evident from the consultation responses we received that we needed to make it clear that these contributions go towards essential infrastructure, amenities and facilities required in a community as a consequence of development. The level of contribution depends solely on the direct impact a development will have on an area. It is in no way a development tax and neither is it new; we are simply ensuring what has happened in the past is clear and transparent. We will work with developers early on to establish what, if any, level of contribution is required and it is important that developers engage with this process from the very outset.”

The Developer Contributions guidance will be used alongside guidance adopted earlier this year that sets out how contributions for affordable housing in particular will be sought. The level of contributions across all categories, including affordable housing, will be assessed together to ensure that development remains viable.

Developer Contributions is one of three Supplementary Planning Guidance documents adopted today, along with Wildness and General Development and Carbon Sinks and Stores. The various guidance supports the Cairngorms National Park Local Plan and are a material consideration for planning applications.