The Department for Education is issuing new guidance which aims to make sure that councils get the most from their powers to force housing developers to pay for new school places.
Planning laws allow local authorities to secure contributions towards the cost of new infrastructure that new housing creates a demand for, but the DfE is concerned that such requirements vary from council to council.
Today’s document aims to make it clearer how councils can negotiate these developer contributions.
Planning system: Schools may be allowed to build new homes
The guidance explains that where a development means that new schools are necessary, councils can seek funding to build them and require that suitable land is set aside.
Housing developers paying for new schools
Alternatively, developers can build schools themselves.
However, the guidance does not create any new powers for councils or place any new conditions on developers.
Schools minister Lord Agnew said: “It isn’t enough for developers simply to build houses; we need to build communities. Schools are at the centre of any community and that’s why it’s vital that developers contribute to the cost of the school places they create.
“This government is already undertaking a huge expansion in school places, with one million new places on track to be created this decade.
“But schools can still find themselves under pressure from new housing developments, and where they do it’s right that, where appropriate, developers support these costs.”
The DfE said that when considering planning applications, councils should take into account how many new school places they think the development will require, and what the average cost of school places is in that area.
Luke Tryl, director of the free-schools charity the New Schools Network, said he hoped the new guidance will minimise the amount of time that schools planned for new housing developments spend in the pre-opening phase while land acquisition and access are negotiated.
The DfE worked with the Educational Building and Development Officers' Group to draw up the guidance.
The group’s chair, Graham Olway, said: “Negotiating developer contributions is often a very complicated, drawn-out process, but having government guidance on the subject should make the negotiations more straightforward.”