NHS organisations are making a costly oversight if they fail to seek money from developers over the impact of new housing schemes, as Leenamari Aantaa-Collier explains

Trusts could be doing more to secure planning contributions from local planning authorities to help them deal with the direct and unfunded impact of residential developments on acute and accident and emergency health services.

Whilst there are some examples of good practice – where trusts have managed to secure significant sums in support funding from developers – others could be missing out on opportunities because they are failing to present their case to local planning authorities in a proactive and well-evidenced way.

Through the mechanism of planning obligations under s.106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 the South Warwickshire Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire Trust have been successful in securing financial contributions from residential developers.

In the case of South Warwickshire, this will lead to an estimated £10m in planning contributions from new residential development in its patient area over the coming years. Jayne Blacklay, the trust’s director of development and deputy CEO, says that securing these additional contributions has been essential to safeguarding the trust’s ability to maintain the delivery of high quality services in the face of increasing demand caused by the significant housing growth in its patient area.

‘Local planning authorities must take into account the potential practical and unfunded financial impacts upon NHS services arising from new developments’

The principles that underpin this exercise include the formation of healthy and sustainable communities as articulated in the government’s national planning policy framework. It is essential, therefore, that trusts proactively engage in the planning process for the protection and benefit of the communities they serve.

At the heart of the planning system is the legal duty on local planning authorities to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development and the creation and maintenance of healthy communities.

Consequently, local planning policies must be developed, and development management decisions taken, with this in mind. This means that local planning authorities must take into account the potential practical and unfunded financial impacts upon NHS services arising from new developments when formulating planning policies and determining individual planning applications.

Unfunded impacts

The first step to securing planning contributions is for trusts to understand the impact that any infrastructure changes and planned housing developments are likely to have on healthcare services in their area.

Of course, each hospital is different, and obtaining clear and comprehensive information will help to ensure the actual impact on funding is properly understood. A robust, evidence-based case can then be developed in support of a requirement for developer contributions to healthcare provision.

Once this is done, trusts will need to liaise directly with local planning authority to ensure their requirement for a planning contribution is included within any s.106 agreement, a commonly used agreement by developers and the relevant local planning authority to mitigate a development’s impact on local infrastructure and services.

In some instances it may also be appropriate to request that the impact of a planned development features at the top, or near the top, of any community infrastructure levy charging schedule. This will improve the trust’s chances of securing a planning contribution greatly.

By adopting an approach that combines specialist legal planning advice, the formulation of robust technical evidence and ongoing collaborative engagement with the local planning authority, a trust can procure the best financial outcomes for both short and long-term funding. 

In the short term, it will assist the trust in securing financial contributions to mitigate the previously unfunded impacts on acute and A&E health services. In the longer term, it will assist the trust in future proofing its services by ensuring that local planning policies for forthcoming developments are supported by adequate health infrastructure.

Trusts should seek to engage their local planning authority in relation to these issues at the earliest opportunity and before doing so, they should ensure they are fully prepared, with well-documented evidence to hand.

Leenamari Aantaa-Collier is a specialist planning lawyer at Shakespeare Martineau.