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‘School tax’ let off for housing association
5:05pm Monday 6th January 2014 in News
A HOUSING association has been told it may not have to subsidise extra places in Colchester schools for new homes it has built in the town.
When Colchester council gave a developer planning permission for 16 flats in Mersea Road, in 2007, councillors agreed the companywould have to pay to expand a local school to take children living in them.
Developer Coneco started work on the site in late 2010, but sold it to Colne Housing Association in April 2011, claiming the original project was unviable.
Colne completed the work and has since moved in tenants.
The association applied to the council to lift a Section 106 agreement covering the school money, something councillors unanimously accepted.
Highwoods councillor Gerard Oxford backed the move, saying: “It is not nice to take a housing association to court when it is trying to provide affordable housing to those most in need. I would say 16 two-bedroom affordable units more than outweighs the advantages of the Section 106.”
Wivenhoe Cross Lib Dem member John Manning said: “Housing associations do an amazing job.
“I understand where Essex County Council is coming from and that there are going to be children who need to be educated, but I think a bit of humanity needs to come into it.
“We need to say these are the people who are on the edge. We need to help as many of them as we can. Colne Housing has probably helped us out by taking this site on.”
The Section 106 money would have been split between the borough and county councils, so although Colchester has waived its share, County Hall may yet demand its share.
County council official Keith Blackburn also spoke at the meeting and suggested his council might not let Colne off the hook.
He explained: “We’ve no problem with affordable housing, but amassive amount of expenditure will be required to provide school places in the area. This is a small token towards that.
“Colne Housing must have known about the obligations when they took on the site.”
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