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The shortage of housing across the UK is a well-known fact; residential development is needed, and fast, particularly in the current economic climate. However, it is vital to ensure that the impact of these developments is properly mitigated in order to safeguard the healthcare service levels needed for local residents, as Leenamari Aantaa-Collier, partner and head of planning at The Wilkes Partnership explains.

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GPs and Acute & Community Services have been operating at full capacity for several years and with each development bringing an influx of new residents, the pressure is mounting on the NHS.

This flood of new patients will mean that NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups will need to increase their workforce and potentially build new facilities in order to accommodate the demands placed on their services. It is this impact that new development brings which should be dealt with by way of a developer contribution.

Under the Town and Country Planning Act (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017, for any new residential development over 150 houses, an expert with an understanding of the subject matter will need to consider whether there is a significant individual and cumulative impact on population and health.

It is therefore critical for NHS trusts and CCGs to be monitoring for new developments and engaging with their local councils early in the planning process to ensure a quick response to any applications.

Retaining the contributions

The initial attainment of the contributions aside, one of the major concerns should come from how to ensure the money is retained within the health services.

“The solution to this is to work with your legal advisor and local planning authority to provide flexibility within the initial mitigation request, whether this is in terms of timescales, projects or phased payments” explains Leenamari. “Should a situation arise where the initial proposed project is undeliverable for any reason, under an agreement which is too restrictive, the contribution will ultimately end up going back to the developers.”

“Secondly, I would advise the CCGs to seek security in terms of an agreement between the CCG practices and the GPs for any additional increase in facilities built using developer contributions. There is a risk that in the future these facilities may be sold and end up under alternative ownership, taking much needed infrastructure away from the health service. The sole purpose of these developer contributions is to provide essential health services and facilities for local communities, and it is vital that these are retained within public health indefinitely.”

“An effective and collaborative relationship with the local planning authority is key to successfully securing healthcare contributions, however, the planning system is complex, so it is vital that NHS trusts and CCGs seek independent professional advice to ensure all contribution requests are well evidenced in order to comply with the regulations. This way, we can ensure the future of our healthcare service is robust enough to withstand whatever the future may hold.”

For more information, please contact Leenamari Aantaa-Collier on 0121 710 5934 or at laantaa-collier@wilkes.co.uk