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Hertsmere set to receive £1.3million in new homes bonuses in 2014/15
A council is expecting to receive £1.3million in bonuses this year as a reward for building new homes.
Hertsmere Borough Council will be receiving the grant as part of the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme, which rewards local authorities for delivering newly-built homes and bringing empty homes back into use.
By matching council tax raised from new properties, councils will have more cash for further developments.
Hertsmere has welcomed the grant, especially since the Government has reversed plans to give the money to the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to distribute.
Councillor Harvey Cohen, who has responsibility for planning, said: “It’s fantastic news that the government has decided not to allocate their funding of new homes to the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which in essence is an unelected strategic body.
“While the LEP is doing lots of great work to help support and boost our local economies, we are pleased that the New Homes Bonus money is staying local and within the council’s budget so we can best deliver the services that our communities need and want.”
He added this decision was a “great example of localism as work” as the council could now decide how to spend the money on improving services and facilities through consulting residents.
However, there could be a further threat to the amount the council receives in New Homes bonuses, as Chancellor Geroge Osborne announced in the Autumn Statement payments could be withheld where local authorities have objected to development,and planning approvals are then granted on appeal.
Leader of the Labour Group Councillor Ann Harrison said this policy was “terrible” as it would put pressure on councillors and council officers to accept “bad” plans.
She said: “With this initiative the Government is blackmailing councils to pass developments, even if they would not fit in with the character of the area or would be overdevelopment.
“The planning committee doesn’t like this, it puts an awful lot of financial pressure to accept almost anything.”
Cllr Cohen said the new initiative was designed to prevent councillors from objecting to a development, not because it countermanded policy but because the electorate did not want it.
However said he opposed the initiative as he thought “any planning decisions should be free of monetary concerns”, and the decision on whether to grant an appeal relied too heavily on the “subjective” judgment of planning inspectors.
He said: “This is only in consultation and is not due to come into force until April.
"Hertsmere will be writing to the Government to oppose the initiative, and hopefully it will be reversed as the LEP plans were.”
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