Margaret Davidson

Margaret Davidson

The Highland Council is to review developer contributions for schools in the Inverness area to help the local authority cope with increasing rolls at city schools.

Members of the council’s Places Committee will be presented with proposals on August 16 to raise the maximum contribution from £2,013 to £6,983 for each new build with immediate effect.

The option to raise developer contributions is also being considered in other parts of the Highlands.

Taking account of the forecasted phasing of housing sites, school roll forecasts indicate that primary schools in Inverness are under pressure and require significant additional capacity to support growth. In addition, all Inverness secondary school are forecasted to go over capacity within the next 15 years. Three of the five Inverness secondary schools are already experiencing capacity issues with school rolls in excess of 90%.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “We urgently need to plan ahead for school capacity, particularly in primary schools, to keep up with development in the city. The Council is undertaking proactive work to ensure that our future communities can be provided with the facilities required to support a good quality of life and the future education of our children.”

A review has commenced on the Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance which was adopted in March 2013 and a new draft is anticipated to be reported to the Places Committee in November for approval. Alongside, a review of the Action Programme for the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan (IMFLDP) is providing an up to date picture of the infrastructure requirements to support growth in the IMFLDP area.

This work has highlighted that the methodology for calculating developer contributions for education needs to be updated. It has also highlighted that to meet the requirements for new schools to support future growth in Inverness in particular the new-build costs set out in the existing Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance need to be clarified.

Members of the council’s places committee will be asked to agree that negotiations on developer contributions within the Inverness associated schools groups’ catchment areas will be subject to new build equivalent rates based on benchmarking with equivalent developer contribution rates used by other councils in Scotland and a review of recent school developments in the Highlands.

Excluding land costs, the per-pupil costs translate to a per-dwelling cost of £6,983 for primary schools, compared to the existing £2,013, and £3,449 per dwelling for secondary school, compared to the existing £1,039. The new rates are proposed for new primary and secondary schools for any new development where there is a clear need for new schools as a result of construction.

Alongside the developer contributions for forecasted school provision, it will be vital to also factor land costs in the final calculation of developer contributions. In all cases developers will be expected to safeguard and make available the land agreed with the council for school provision.

Reacting to the move, Gary Johnston, director of G H Johnston building consultants, told the Press & Journal: “We can understand why the council wish to do this, with government cutbacks, but we have to be very careful on the impact of people buying houses. If they put the money up it can only go on to the end price value of the house, which then adds tax on buying a house that’s going into services.”

Mr Johnston added that it would also be concerning if the council raised charges in “outlying parts” of the Highlands where it’s more expensive to build.

Inverness housing developer Willie Gray said there “needs to be a consistency of approach” for all developers and a “significant lead in time” for housebuilders to incorporate this into their budgets when bidding for land.