A funding ‘stalemate’ is delaying much-needed improvement projects in Ottery St Mary.
Work on the Winters Lane play park and Land of Canaan car park is due to be paid for with Section 106 funding – the cash provided by housing developers to pay for community improvements.
But although the houses have been built and the developers have paid up, Ottery Town Council has yet to see the money.
Ottery town councillor Dean Stewart said around £88,000 was collected from the developers by East Devon District Council (EDDC) 18 months ago – enough to pay for both projects.
He said: “We’re at a stalemate at the moment, we’re trying to get these things done, the money is in EDDC’s bank account and we would very much like to move forward.”
EDDC has confirmed that both projects meet the criteria to be funded through Section 106 payments.
Around £22,500 of the money is earmarked for buying new equipment for the Winters Lane play park, and nearly £55,000 for a new bridge over the river at Land of Canaan, plus other facilities there.
Town councillor Dean Stewart said a further £200,000 owed to Ottery in Section 106 contributions has still not been collected from the developers by EDDC, although there are many other sports and open spaces projects awaiting the funding.
They include a multi-use games area including tennis and netball courts at Strawberry Lane, a new fence at the cricket club, repairs to the football club’s facilities, and a roof for Ottery Primary School’s outdoor swimming pool; this would enable the school to offer public access outside teaching hours.
Cllr Stewart said the process of claiming payments due from housing developers had been halted while council workers were furloughed, but no progress appears to have been made since the end of lockdown
He said: “We have not yet heard from EDDC on why these payments have not been collected, or when they will be.”
An EDDC spokesman said:
“We are working closely with Ottery St Mary Town Council to ensure the appropriate spend of Section 106 monies currently available for play areas and open space in the town. We are discussing the Land of Canaan and Winters Lane play area projects with them, working through relevant processes. These processes ensure that the money is spent on appropriate projects that meet the needs of the community and secure the provision of those projects well into the future for the people of Ottery. There are also a number of practical considerations that our Streetscene team are working through with the Town Council as the projects would be delivered on land owned and managed by EDDC.
“Alongside this we’re chasing up the outstanding monies that are owed from other developments in the town and hope that this money can also be added to the pot for spend in the town in the near future.”
The leader of EDDC, Cllr Paul Arnott, said: “The new administration is determined to fully analyse for communities across East Devon why there have been such protracted delays in recouping funds promised by developers at the time that planning permission was granted. Indeed, without S106 conditions these permissions would have been denied. I have asked for an initial officer report to Cabinet at the end of this month. We will see what the lie of the land is then, and set a decisive course from there.”