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Developer contributions for education facilities in Bedford Borough

In recent years public expenditure controls have affected the ability of the Borough Council to provide education infrastructure to keep pace with the rapid rate of development. All additional development permitted will add to the problems and impose unacceptable cost, social or otherwise on the existing communities unless additional facilities are provided to meet the needs of children arising from new developments.

Under current government guidance (Circular 1/97) local authorities are able to seek planning obligations to offset the additional burden placed upon the infrastructure. The tests to apply for the use of planning obligations are that they should be:

(i) necessary
(ii) relevant to planning
(iii) directly related to the proposed development
(iv) fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development, and
(v) reasonable in all other aspects.

Contributions can therefore only be sought when the Education Authority identifies that there is a demonstrable need arising from the development.

Bedford Borough Council is  the Planning Authority making the decisions on residential planning applications, and  where a development will place an unacceptable strain on educational infrastructure the Authority may refuse the planning application.

Education provision required may include land and buildings for a new school or an extension to an existing school to increase capacity or improve facilities, to increase the capability of the school to meet the needs of additional pupils. Sometimes contributions from several sites will together enable school capacity improvements.

The number of obligations being negotiated and awaiting implemented has increased over the last few years, particularly as it has been agreed that the Borough Council now asks to be consulted on proposals for 5 or more dwellings. Owing to resource implications contributions will not normally be sought on sites smaller than this (although contributions offered will be accepted if there is a need for additional education provision). Consequently it has been necessary to produce a set of guidelines for developers to demonstrate the Council's consistency of approach.

The Borough Council seeks contributions for all age groups (including early years and sixth form provision) for all maintained schools, i.e. community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided and foundation schools
As mentioned above, contributions will only be sought where there is a demonstrable need arising from the proposed development. For schools, the basic process in determining need is for the Planning Team to look at:-

  • The estimated pupil numbers to be generated by the proposed development
  • The capacity of the catchment area schools and existing and forecast school rolls

and thus to identify where there is a shortfall in accommodation giving rise to the need for additional provision.

The pupil generation rates are derived from an analysis of newer housing areas in the County of Bedfordshire based upon an analysis of small area statistics information from the National Census. The rates used are:

  • 6.3 children per 100 dwellings for nursery age pupils 
  • 4.6 children per 100 dwellings for primary age pupils
  • 4.2 children per 100 dwellings for secondary age pupils
  • 2.1 students per 100 dwellings for 6th form pupils 


For developments comprising a high proportion of flats or 1 bedroom houses lower generation rates may be considered appropriate.

When the extent of a shortfall of provision is determined in terms of numbers of pupils, it is then necessary to determine the costs. It is not practicable to undertake a detailed feasibility study for every school. For smaller schemes the Borough Council has therefore adopted the Department for Children, Schools and Families (2009) multipliers, which are used to allocate Capital resources to Local Education Authorities.

When a contribution has been agreed with the developer, the timing of the payments needs to be determined, and a legal agreement (known as a Section 106 agreement) is then drawn up. This normally enshrines all aspects of the infra-structural requirements and includes the amounts of money payable, timing, index linking and any repayment restrictions.

The Planning Team has achieved an increasing amount of success in securing education contributions in the past few years, and this has to be put in the context of developers being more knowledgeable and challenging in their negotiations, and on some occasions employing education consultants to negotiate on their behalf.

It must be remembered that planning obligations are used for providing additional facilities at schools arising from housing developments, and not for addressing existing condition issues.

If you have any queries on this matter, please contact the School Planning Team on 01234 228135/228136

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Education and Learning

Raising the level of academic achievement is a top priority for the council. We will ensure the effective delivery of our services so we can improve the life chances for children and young people. Check out this section to find out about Learning centres, schools, special education needs and more.


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