Class Q permits conversion not new build

The High Court has issued a decision in a Class Q matter that will affect the way in which LPAs will determine such applications in a way that I fear will not be helpful to applicants. I examine in this post the application, the Inspector’s decision and the essence of the High Court judgement, and anticipate the way in which it is going to be used in prior approval applications to refuse applications.

The case is Hibbitt and Another -v- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) and Rushcliffe Borough Council (2) and was decided on 9 November 2016. The link to the full judgment is here. The Inspector's decision letter can be downloaded here. The original application website including the plans is here.

The Application

The building which is the subject of the application was a metal framed modern farm building: a metal frame, corrugated sheet and open sided cattle stall. The size of the barn is 30.5m x 7.96m (243sq.m). It has a maximum height of approximately 5 metres with the lowest eaves at a height of 3.2 metres. It is largely open on three sides and was used to house cattle. The barn is situated between two other large steel framed buildings that house livestock. In order to convert the barn into a dwelling it was contemplated that there would be no demolition and the existing steel frame would be retained in its entirety, as would the roof. The applicant proposed to create external walls from structural infill panels that would have no load-bearing function. Structural evidence was provided that the steel structure and the concrete floor could take all external loads without further strengthening.

The Appeal

Prior approval was refused and the applicant appealed. The Inspector dismissed the appeal and the essence of her decision is contained in paragraph 10:

10. Nevertheless, having regard to the extent of works necessary for the frame and fibre roof to function as a dwelling, a demonstration of the load bearing capacity of the frame alone is insufficient to meet the requirement of part Q in this case. Although I accept that substantial works could fall under the scope of class Q they nonetheless presuppose that the works comprise 'conversion'. In this case, the building before me would not be capable of functioning as a dwelling without the building works outlined above which include the construction of all four exterior walls. This goes well beyond what could reasonably described as conversion, and notwithstanding the re-use of the 6 steel uprights as the main structural element for the building and the retention of the fibre roof, the works described would be so extensive as to comprise rebuilding. I must therefore conclude that the works necessary to create a dwelling from the structure onsite would not fall within the scope of that permissible under part Q. Accordingly, they would not be permitted development under Class Q(b).

The Inspector agreed that it was an agricultural building, that no additional structural works were required, and that the works were reasonably necessary to convert the building.

High Court decision

The High Court upheld her approach in this appeal as being a correct reading of Class Q. The narrow point that the judge has decided is that permitted development given by the Order is the conversion of an agricultural building, not its rebuilding, and so she reached the right decision on the facts before her.

Much of the judgment deals with the respective arguments proposed by each side, but the following extracts indicate the basis of the judge’s decision.

The permission given Class Q(b) reads:  (b) building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule.

This was significant to the judge:

26 The concept of "conversion" is found in the overarching provisions of Class Q (not in Q.1) and it thereby introduces a discrete threshold issue such that if a development does not amount to a "conversion" then it fails at the first hurdle and there is no need to delve into the exceptions in Q.1. It is thus a freestanding requirement that must be met irrespective of anything in Q.1. … on a fair construction of the drafting logic of the Order, the requirement that development amount to a "conversion" is drafted as a separate requirement from these other conditions. In particular (as set out in the second point below) the concept of conversion has inherent limits which delineate it from a rebuild.

27. A conversion is conceptually different to a “rebuild”…  In my view it is a matter of legitimate planning judgment as to where the line is drawn. The test is one of substance, and not form based upon a supposed but ultimately artificial clear bright line drawn at the point of demolition… In any event the nub of the point being made by the Inspector, in my view correctly, was that the works went a very long way beyond what might sensibly or reasonably be described as a conversion. The development was in all practical terms starting afresh, with only a modest amount of help from the original agricultural building. 

A worrying aspect of the judgment is the court’s reliance on policy to support his interpretation of the GPDO. He referred to paragraph 55 of the Framework (“LPAs should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside…) 

30. These considerations militated in favour of only approving clear-cut cases and leaving more marginal cases to the ordinary planning system, and therefore against a wide construction of Class Q such as that advocated for by the Claimants which would permit wholesale circumvention of Paragraph 55. A proper balance was struck between the need for speed and certainty and a fuller evaluation by ensuring that only genuine conversions, and not fresh or re-builds, were automatically cleared. I agree with this analysis.

The judge applied the Planning Policy Guidance paragraph 105:

31 The distinction between a conversion and a rebuild is implicit in paragraph 105 NPPG which states in relation to Class Q that it is not the "… intention of the permitted development right to include the construction of new structural elements for a building". It can be said that one reason for this conclusion is that a development that includes "new structural elements" is one that involves a degree of rebuild and is not a conversion.

This last point seems odd given that the applicant was proposing to use lightweight, non-load bearing panels with which to create the walls. Also, if they were structural elements they would not be permitted development. However, this is just the kind of point that LPAs will repeat.

Conclusions

The essence of the case is that a rebuild (or new build) is not permitted, just the conversion of a building. No tests are laid down to assist future assessment, and so each case remains to be decided in each case.

The judge has however clarified two points that will assist applicants.

1. The sentence in paragraph 105 that reads “The permitted development right under Class Q assumes that the agricultural building is capable of functioning as a dwelling” is not easy to construe. He did not gain much from those words to assist with an interpretation of conversion. This is set out in paragraph 33 of the judgment.

2. The amount of works proposed does not of itself determine whether the works are a rebuild or a conversion. “The first concerns the Inspector's analysis of the weight she attached to the extent of the proposed works. In my view she correctly recognised that the extent of the works was not dispositive [dispositive means determinative - I had to look it up]. In many permitted developments the work might be extensive yet that does not thereby disqualify a development from automatic permission. I also accept her analysis that the extent of the works to be undertaken was one, amongst other, relevant consideration that could assist in forming a judgment whether the works were part of a conversion or were, instead, part of a rebuild or fresh build. I thus accept the analysis that the extent of the works is a relevant but not dispositive consideration.”


The case is overall very unhelpful in that it does no more than uphold an Inspector’s decision on the facts of one case but no doubt parallels will be drawn with this case by LPAs when determining similar proposals. The case does not clarify where or how the line will be drawn between fresh build and conversion in any other case and ultimately creates more shadow than light by elevating the undefined concept of “conversion” in Q.(b) above the relatively straightforward limitations contained in Q.1.

New roof timbers and a new wall are not additional strengthening works under Class Q

before

before

                                           after

                                           after

I have just read a refreshingly pragmatic approach taken by an appeal Inspector on a Class Q appeal from Wiltshire.

The proposal was for a change of use of a barn and works of alteration and it was the latter that was objected to by the council. First, they objected to replacing the roof timbers as a new structural element. The Inspector said, " whether or not the timbers need replacing is not relevant as Class Q specifically allows the  installation or replacement of roofs.  A roof does not just constitute its external covering; it also includes the roof timbers which support the covering. Even though the new external wall would help to support the roof, the wall is specifically allowed under Class Q too."

The council said it was unaware of the depth of the foundations, but the Inspector said, " given that the building has clearly been in existence for a long time, and it is in a reasonable state of repair with no signs of subsidence, I have nothing to lead me to believe that the foundations are inadequate or that the walls would not support the roof without anything other than some general maintenance."

He continued, "Various other works are mentioned by the Council such as the piers in the hallway, new lintels, wall ties, insulation and damp proofing.  However, these are either internal alterations or maintenance works.  They do not require planning permission."

The appeal was allowed  

Defence to enforcement notice prosecution

A District Judge made a serious error of law by reading the 1990 Act in such a way as to allow as a defence to an enforcement prosecution an appeal against refusal of retrospective planning permission for those matters comprising the breach.

The appeal process allows for a deemed application for planning permission, and if the appeal fails for any reason the notice takes effect and is to be obeyed. The sanction is prosecution in the courts, and it would undermine the whole process if an application for planning permission could act as an effective defence to any prosecution.

The owner of land subject to the enforcement notice had only one opportunity to challenge it, limited to the grounds specified. He could not raise what in substance was another s.174(2) ground after the event. Whether the analysis was founded on abuse of process, delay and/or the inviolability of the statutory scheme, the upshot was the same. The sole focus of s.179(3) was the existence of concrete physical factors, or practical impediments, that rendered compliance with the terms of an enforcement notice unfeasible; it was not contemplating the taking of further legal action after the appellate process had concluded and the opportunities afforded by s.174 had been exhausted.

Court of Appeal rules on light loss from neighbouring development on an historic pub

Originally a 700 year old tavern mentioned in the writing of Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys and Geoffrey Chaucer, the George Tavern is a beacon for both emerging and established artists, musicians and creatives alike. Owner, Pauline Forster has spent the last decade transforming The George into an arts, music and more importantly a film location.

Planning permission had been granted by the inspector for the demolition of a single storey building and the erection in its place of a three storey building with commercial uses on the ground floor and six flats above. The pub owner had opposed permission on the grounds that noise complaints from new residents would prejudice her late night licence and the loss of daylight would destroy her subsidiary business hiring out the upstairs as a location for filming and photography. The inspector held that noise insulation in the new building would be sufficient given a planning condition that required the local authority to be satisfied that suitable sound insulation had been installed before the new building could be occupied. In the case of the light, even the developer's expert had accepted that the proposed development would almost totally extinguish the morning sunlight falling on the pub's eastern elevation, which lit the main shooting location of the staircase. 

The Court of Appeal criticised the Inspector for not dealing adequately with this effect in his decision letter and allowed the pub's appeal to the court on light issues alone. The grant of planning permission was quashed.

The principle upheld by the court is that the impact of a prospective planning permission on the viability of a neighbouring business can amount to a material planning consideration, but that it must have a substantial evidence base in order to succeed.

Lawful use of an authorised barn less than ten years old

An appeal Inspector has just ruled that there had been no material change of use of a barn that was granted planning permission in 2007 after local objectors had claimed, in response to a certificate of lawful use application, that it had been used by a circus. It was agreed that there had been no use since summer 2014. In refusing the certificate, the planning authority claimed that as the use was less than 10 years old it had not become immune in view of the uncertainty of its use in recent years and the allegation of a change of use.

The Inspector held that the appellant's evidence was sworn, clear and unambiguous, and although it provided only a snapshot of uses within that period there was no evidence that the lawful use had continued and there was insufficient evidence from third parties to establish that there had been a material change of use since 2014. The appeal was allowed and costs were awarded against Cotswold Council.

The significance of the year 2014 is great: if a barn was solely in use for a agriculture on 20 March 2013 it qualifies for the Class Q change of use to a dwellinghouse. That may well have been the motive to apply for the certificate.

Another Class Q seminar given today

One of the case study appeal sites explored today. The appeal dealt with additional strengthening of the barn required by the proposal to fully-glaze the open barn.

One of the case study appeal sites explored today. The appeal dealt with additional strengthening of the barn required by the proposal to fully-glaze the open barn.

I was asked by the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants South West Branch to provide their members with an update of appeal decisions on Class Q applications for prior approval. There are well in excess of 200 such appeal decisions, and the critical areas that are emerging are the assessment of what building works are "reasonably necessary" for use as a dwelling, and what constitutes additional strengthening works. There was a lively discussion on the various topics raised and how applications are being dealt with by planning authorities in the south west.

The meeting was attended by 37 delegates representing a range of companies which advise farmers on their business and site development and it was hosted by Nick and Claire Bragg at Frogmary Green Farm, West Street, South Petherton, Somerset. It was followed by a guided tour of their farm.

Successful application for a certificate of lawful use, Dorset

The certificate now opens the way for my client to make an application for development for housing which would otherwise have been inappropriate.

He owns a large site in mid-Dorset, far away from those centres where housing development would be acceptable. This unsustainable location has become previously developed (or brownfield) land for the purposes of the Framework which gives the site an advantage when the planning application for housing comes forward.

The site has been in use for over 10 years for storage and distribution, workshops, domestic storage and light industrial use. It was even used for the repair of vehicles belonging to the local planning authority! Their non-action over enforcement paved the way for the successful application for the certificate. The application was well supported by over 200 documents including receipts, invoices, photographs and letters from the various occupiers over the years. Compiling and presenting the information was painstaking, and a spreadsheet distilled into one A3 page the history of occupation of each unit and the use to which it was put.

This mini industrial estate is now declared lawful, which has enhanced the resale value and opens the door for further planning applications.

In-house seminar on Class Q change of use

I was very kindly asked to present a lunch-time talk on recent appeal decisions in the very contentious area of Class Q applications. I was able to review over a dozen recent appeal decisions especially covering the troublesome topic of adding additional strengthening elements to an existing building.

The moral of the story is to present your application and appeal material with very persuasive evidence of the sufficiency of the existing building elements to support the load that comes with the proposed external elements. It is surprising just how many applications are doomed to fail yet still persisted with simply because the evidence that can so easily be provided is omitted - even on repeat applications for the same building.

The seminar was attended by staff of Stags in their Exeter office, who are very active in this area and for whom I have provided legal advice and support for their applications.

Change of use of a barn proved by iPhone

In a recent certificate of lawful use application I was following the usual lines of enquiry into available evidence to prove when the change of use of a barn took place. It was critical to find material to demonstrate the precise date when the mobile home was first moved into a barn. Unusually this type of change of use attracts the four-year time limit since it is the change of use of a barn to a dwellinghouse. If stationed on open land, the relevant period is 10 years, so it was critical to our application that was made in 2016 for a use that changed in early 2012.

My client produced photos taken on his iPhone, and he had recorded the whole day, from the field in which the mobile home was first stationed, the hazardous journey through narrow country lanes to its final resting place in the barn 10 miles away.

The huge advantage of the smart phone is it ability to record quality photographs, and embedded in them is the locational data and the date and time taken. Using special software I was able to retrieve the geodata and plot it on a map. And voilà! There was our case. What started out as a way to record the memories of the day for the family album turned into incontrovertible evidence of the date, time and place when the change of use took place.

They say that the camera doesn't lie. That is also true of the information that is 'baked into' the digital photo which is why it is a great ally in certificate applications, or any situation in which timing and location is critical.

Barn conversions

Last Thursday the Government issued very helpful guidance on the Class MB permitted development rights to convert agricultural buildings into Class C3 dwellings.

Many applications and appeals have been lost by the application of the Framework policies when considering the location of the barn, as it has been taken to mean its sustainable location. The Guidance has been made particularly clear that this applies only to the location of the proposed dwelling in relation to, for example, smelly or noisy farm activities, and further that farms are rarely in sustainable locations. The words "impractical or undesirable" should be given their ordinary meaning. A conversion may be impractical because an agricultural building may be on the top of a hill with no road access, power source or other services.

The Guidance has undoubtedly been issued because too many applications have been refused on this basis which has thwarted the reason for introducing this particular PD right.

Councils may not charge admin fees in planning obligations

An Inspector's decision not to allow admin charges in a planning obligation was supported by the High Court this month. The appeal proposal was for 26 homes and the council claimed a standard scale fee of £3,750 to be paid to the County Council towards its costs in administering and monitoring the payments in respect of public transport, adult day care, household waste, education, libraries and museums. The Inspector ruled that the admin fee was not necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms.

The judge found "nothing in the wording of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, the Planning Act 2008, the Regulations, the National Planning Policy Framework or the Planning Obligations Practice Guidance which suggests that authorities could or should claim administration and monitoring fees as part of planning obligations."  She noted that the application was "a routine planning application for a relatively small development" and that the proposed fee was "based on [a] standardised table of fees rather than any individualised assessment of special costs liable to be incurred for this particular development".
"The only allowable contributions (education and library services) did not require ongoing management or maintenance; they were single payments, to be made prior to the commencement of development", the judge said. "I consider that the inspector was entitled to conclude that a contribution to the administration and monitoring costs was not 'necessary' to make the development acceptable in planning terms."

The door is still open in some circumstances for council's to justify a fee, for example a large development that would stretch the resources of a small authority to cope with and necessitate recruiting additional staff to administer, but routinely admin fees are not permitted.

Assets of Community Value: demolition didn't help the appeal

The first appeal decisions from local authorities to the First Tier Tribunal are starting to trickle through, and so far three decisions to list properties as ACVs have been overturned. Although each case is fact-specific, there is some reason to be optimistic about a successful appeal to the Tribunal. Such optimism is to be tempered by the reasoning of the Tribunal in a case from Bristol.

A recent unsuccessful appeal shows that the Tribunal considers the threshold for the likelihood of a building returning to beneficial community use is not set very high. This case concerned an appeal by developers against the Council's decision to list a scout hut as an Asset of Community Value. In the period after the scout hut was listed but before the review, MCB demolished the building. MCB contended that since the scout hut had been demolished and the lease had expired, it was not realistic to think that there would be a time in the next five years when the building served the social wellbeing or social interests of the community.

The Tribunal held that Bristol South Scouts had shown a commitment to the site for 60 years and it was clear that they were determined to rebuild a scout hut, if possible, on the site. It was not necessary to press for detailed information about the money available or the possibilities of philanthropy in order to conclude that the outcome they sought was realistic. MCB's argument that any proposal to build a new scout hut on the site and to resume community use would require planning permission might well be right; but on the facts there was no suggestion that there would be any difficulty in securing such permission, and so this factor had no material impact on what would be a likely future social benefit.

If the Tribunal does not take account of the financial ability of the social group to rebuild, or the likely outcome of a planning application, it would seem that a philanthropic aspiration is enough to secure ACV status. I wonder whether the same approach would have been taken if the building was a demolished pub or community hall.

HMO, PD and PINS

The Planning Inspectorate has issued guidance to its own Inspectors on the application of permitted development rights granted to dwellinghouses to houses in multiple occupation. The document, issued on 15 January 2014, advises that HMOs do benefit from Part 1 PD rights, provided the HMP falls within the definition of a dwellinghouse, i.e. it affords to those who use it as such the facilities required for day-to-day living, and it isn't a building containing one or more flats, or a flat within an HMO.

The document may well have been prompted by a run of conflicting decisions issued by Inspectors, and the absence of clear instruction from the Technical Guidance.

Although it is aimed at Inspectors deciding appeal decisions, local authorities are likely to give it significant weight knowing the way in which Inspectors will be guided on appeal.

The document can be read here. Further guidance to Inspectors can be found here.   

Pubs and planning 3

The final item of news concerns a planning committee rejecting the advice of their planning officer on the relevance of a pub appearing on the list of assets of community value when considering an application for development for housing. The site owner proposed houses on the pub site while retaining a smaller bar with staff accommodation.

The officer advised that the retention of the bar met the objectives of the Framework that community facilities would not be lost, and that the ACV listing was to be given limited weight for the same reason.

However, the community was unanimous in rejecting this advice. The reduced-size bar was scarcely a replacement for the bigger pub that had provided a valuable social facility, and there were no equivalent social facilities in the area. The application was dismissed.

The decision was undoubtedly swayed by the massive local opposition to the application, but one cannot help but feel that it was nonetheless a correct one. There is all the difference in the world between a small bar and a pub that serves the community, and I know where I would put my money in the event of an appeal!

The committee report and decision can be read here

Pubs and planning 2

The second item is an Inspector's decision letter which in this case dismissed an appeal against refusal of planning permission for change of use to a dwelling. 

The pub had recently been closed as the previous landlord had failed to make a profit. The property had been marketed without success despite halving the purchase price during the marketing period. The landlord blamed the off-licence recently opened in a nearby petrol station for his reduced sales, and referred to the national picture of increasing pub closures.

The Inspector was unmoved by this evidence. She was critical of the marketing exercise, and had regard to the local and Framework policies that sought to prevent the loss of facilities that contributed to the social needs of the community.

The appeal reference is: APP/W1850/A/13/2198409 and concerns the Newtown Inn, Lower Eggleton, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 2UG.

Pubs and planning 1

In the space of one week I have seen three separate pieces of news concerning pubs and planning. I am writing up all three as separate news items.

The first is a refreshing account of pragmatism and common sense that was applied by an Inspector on appeal and upheld by the High Court.

It is usual for councils to resist the loss of public houses because of their community value, and to agree to a change of use not only when it is not viable but also after a marketing exercise over a suitable period has demonstrated that it has not attracted a new buyer.

A case that came to the High court this month demonstrates that a marketing exercise is not always necessary even though it is required as a local plan policy.

A pub in Islington was kept open despite being unviable since there would be greater losses by closing the property and incurring security and maintenance costs. Three operators in the previous 18 months had failed to run the pub profitably. Refurbishment costs were prohibitive, and opening for longer hours would cause a noise nuisance locally. There was little passing trade and competition from local pubs. A professional report concluded that no operator could run the pub profitably. The planning application for development for housing was resisted solely on the grounds of this policy, and the developer appealed successfully to the Planning Inspector.

The council’s policy required applicants to demonstrate that the pub had been continuously vacant for two years or more and throughout this period a marketing exercise had been carried out to demonstrate there was no realistic prospect of the pub operating in the foreseeable future. Neither part of the policy had been met since the pub had not closed at all, let alone for two years, and there was no marketing exercise. The Inspector nonetheless allowed the appeal, with the approval of the High Court, because the overall aims of the policy had been met. The appellant had demonstrated why the pub had remained open despite running at a loss, and his expert had concluded that realistically no pub operator would come forward.

The judge concluded that the policy did not seek to retain all pubs, but principally those of historic interest which were valued by local people and which contributed to the street scene. It was inevitable that some pubs would be lost, and even though the policy had not been fully met in this appeal, the overall aims of the policy had been applied properly.

The case, which can be read in full here, will be of value to pub owners operating in challenging commercial circumstances seeking a change of use.

Success after five day planning inquiry

I was instructed to act for the trade association representing the shop owners in Babbacombe and Wellswood to oppose the appeal of the owners of a site in Torquay against the refusal of a planning application for a food supermarket. The council were opposed to the application on the grounds that it was in an out-of-centre location, and that the Town Hall site in Torquay was a preferable location. The council shared my clients' concern that it would have an adverse impact on the local centres of Babbacombe, Wellswood and St Marychurch.

The inquiry was held across four days in September 2013, and the decision letter was released yesterday. The appeal was dismissed as the Inspector was in full agreement on the unsuitability of the site, the preferable location of the Town Hall site and adverse impact on local traders in all three centres.

The outcome is a significant victory for the traders who now feel that the threat to their businesses is now past for some years to come. I am pleased to have been part of the successful team in securing this victory.

Creation of basements - PD or not PD, that is the question.

Everyone needs assistance over the interpretation of legislation, and this is no less true of the regulations covering what comes within permitted development and what needs to be the subject of an application for permission.

If a Government department goes to the trouble of writing technical guidance, it should not keep silent on controversial topics that planning officers and Inspectors on appeal have to adjudicate upon. Such is the case of the creation of basements in dwellings.

Class A provides for a very broad category of works of alteration and enlargement of a dwelling, and in the five years since it was introduced in its present form there have been many occasions when householders have sought to take advantage of the PD right to excavate and create a basement.

The revision of the Technical Guidance that appeared in October 2013 explicitly included "the creation of basements" as an example of Class A development, confirming that it was permitted development. That phrase has now been excluded from the December 2013 version, and the government has confirmed that this was the correction of an error.

This does not mean that it is NOT permitted development; it just means that it is for the adjudicator to decide. This will inevitably lead to inconsistent decisions across the country until it is decided in the courts. I am aware of two Inspectors' decisions which contradict each other, and the most recent from May 2012 decided that the creation of a basement does fall within Class A.

On a separate but linked point, the HIgh Court was asked to referee a disagreement on the precise definition of eaves and how they are to be measured when taking advantage of Class B rights of extending a roof "20 centimetres from the eaves of the original roof". What was the starting point: the edge of the roof, or the wall over which the eaves extended?

The Court disagreed with the Technical Guidance, and preferred the dictionary definition on the basis that that is how a lay person might understand the position when assessing their permitted development rights.

High Court litigation costs the participants a great deal of money, and it is to be hoped that guidance is both comprehensive and accurate when it is provided.

 

 

Number of the week: £1.5 billion

That's the amount of money held by councils in England from planning obligations made by developers that is currently unspent. £421m is unallocated to any particular schemes, often because the part-funding of the schemes was to come from councils themselves who, because of spending cut-backs, have no money for their contribution.

Councils are often slow in returning unspent contributions, and over the last five years only £9.8m has been returned because it was not allocated or spent within the time stipulated in the obligation document.

In many cases this will mean that there is no requirement to return the contributions, and at the same time councils are unable to spend the money on the specified or even alternative schemes.

Many developers regard the payment of contributions as a necessary, but not always welcome, part of the development process and are content to continue with a project having factored in those costs. Whilst the return of the money would be welcome it is rarely sought. Meanwhile capital sums accumulate in council coffers, and the community who are intended to advantage thereby see no benefit because of the double whammy of council spending cuts and unallocated contributions.

The issue may ease over time with community infrastructure levy receipts taking over from s106 contributions, with fewer restrictions on councils in allocating funds to specific projects.

The data was obtained by the BBC making Freedom of Information requests of all 353 English local authorities. The full story can be read here.