‘Serious’ planning error means Rutland County Council could lose out on £1.8m from Larkfleet Homes
Rutland county councillors will decide tonight (September 14) whether to accept the loss of £1.88m of contributions for the Oakham North estate after a “serious administrative error” by the planning department meant developer Larkfleet Homes legally did not have to pay.
The council will be asked by chief executive Helen Briggs to accept a £4.8m settlement from Bourne-based Larkfleet, rather than the £6.68m originally agreed in the Section 106 agreement for the 988-home development between Oakham and Barleythorpe, set when planning permission was approved in July 2011.
The mistake, which came to light in April this year, was made when Larkfleet applied to amend a planning condition covering flood risk assessments in November 2011. The condition was changed in January 2012, but the acting development and control officer at the time failed to realise that a new Section 106 agreement was required.
As a result, Larkfleet no longer has to adhere to the original agreement, so is not legally obliged to make any financial contributions for the Oakham North development apart from the £340,667 which was paid for the first phase.
Once the mistake was highlighted the council and Larkfleet began negotiations about a settlement, and agreed on a £4.8m sum. Councillors will now be asked to approve that settlement at tonight’s full council meeting.
In a statement released earlier today, the council said: “In 2011 the council was responsible for a serious administrative error when it failed to correctly document a variation to a major planning application. This mistake meant that the developer, Larkfleet, was no longer legally required to pay any sum of the original Section 106 monies towards the provision of local services in the Oakahm North area and, as a result, requested an opportunity to renegotiate.
“Larkfleet has agreed, however, to make a substation contribution towards the provision of services for people who will buy and live in the homes they are building. We have therefore been in negotiation with them for some time to reach a figure on which both sides can agree; and which, importantly, will allow us to ensure the necessary services are provided for residents in the area.”
All staff in the planning department have since undergone training and a new head of department has been appointed. Chief executive Helen Briggs said the error was a competency issue rather than a disciplinary matter and no-one had lost their job as a result.
The statement added: “We would like to say that while we regret the original error we have taken action to ensure it should never happen again; we are grateful to Larkfleet who we feel have behaved honourably in coming to an agreement that ultimately protects the interest of local residents in the Oakham North area.
The full report to councillors can be read on the Rutland County Council website.