A new policy has been adopted by the county council which sets out how much housing developers should contribute towards school places.
It was welcomed by members as the document was agreed at Tuesday’s meeting of the local authority’s decision-making cabinet.
As the report states: ‘Where a new housing development is forecast to create a demand for school places in excess of those available in the catchment area of the development, the local authority will seek an education contribution from developers that reflects the likely costs of the additional places required.’
The interim director of children’s services, Andy Johnson, told councillors that the aim was to introduce fairness and clarity to something which had been ‘a little bit ad hoc in the past’.
The report also recognises that ‘the increase in development is causing pressure on school places – 74 developments for a total of more than 5,000 units have been approved from April 2016 to March 2017’.
It continues: ‘In the absence of a formally adopted core strategy, there has been some recent success in gaining section 106 contributions to education with 26 applications being made since April 2017, requesting a total of £11.7million to grow capacity in Northumberland schools’.
Under the new policy, a contribution will be sought where a school’s actual pupil population is at 95 per cent or more of its maximum capacity. In the case of a 500-home development, the anticipated number of new pupils would be 92 at primary level and 55 at secondary level.
Using a calculation based on space requirements and estimated build costs per m2, a contribution of £18,000 per primary pupil and £24,000 per secondary pupil has been set.
Therefore, if the primary and secondary schools were both at 95 per cent or higher of capacity, a developer building a 500-home scheme would have to contribute nearly £3million.