Revealed: Central Beds Council sends community millions to projects miles away

PUBLISHED: 13:02 09 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:08 09 October 2017

Money allocated for community projects to accompany housing developments has often been allocated to schemes far across the county. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto

Money allocated for community projects to accompany housing developments has often been allocated to schemes far across the county. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto

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Millions of pounds meant for community projects near new housing developments have been allocated to completely different parts of Bedfordshire, the Comet can exclusively reveal.

Councillor Adam Zerny of Central Bedfordshire Council and Potton Town Council. Picture: ArchantCouncillor Adam Zerny of Central Bedfordshire Council and Potton Town Council. Picture: Archant

Section 106 money paid by developers to Central Beds Council to fund improved roads, schools, community centres and the like have often been spent miles away – despite laws ordering that spending must be “directly related to the development”.

Councillor Adam Zerny, of Potton, told the Comet he has examined thousands of Section 106 agreements to see how the council allocates funds – and found that since 2012, £3.7 million has been spent well away from the corresponding developments.

Marston Vale Community Forest, for example, received contributions of £557,000 from elsewhere – including £28,000 of funding from developments in Clifton, £11,000 from Potton, £11,000 from Stotfold and a princely £107,000 from Sandy.

Mr Zerny said it had taken him almost a year to get all the information from Central Beds Council, and that he had resorted to Freedom of Information powers to gain much of it.

The information he has compiled shows Biggleswade to be a net receiver to the tune of £191,675, while Sandy, Clifton and Potton are net givers of £139,090, £104,793 and £60,696 respectively.

Mr Zerny said: “This money should have been spent in the communities most affected by the developments. For Central Beds to dole out cash on its own pet projects without consulting the towns and villages that endure all the extra housing is disgusting.”

Asked for comment, Central Beds Council said it “isn’t unreasonable for people to travel a few miles to access such fantastic services which it wouldn’t be possible to provide in every small town and village”.

A spokesman said: “Developers’ S106 money is secured for the closest indoor leisure facility which falls into the catchment for that village or town – generally a 15 to 20-minute drive time.

“This has been built into Central Beds’ leisure strategy, which has undergone extensive public consultation. It is also an assumption in national planning policy, a basis for determining Section 106 contributions.”

The council added money for Marston Vale was gathered from a wide area because “it is one of the national forests and has been created to increase the proportion of woodland cover”. It denied having any “pet projects”.

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