Today the Department for Education has announced that loans will be made available to developers to finance the building of new schools ahead of building new housing developments.
The government said that it is piloting a scheme where £20m will be made available for specific developments to try and ensure that new schools are created in tandem with new homes. In total, this funding will be made available for ten schools in a scheme that will run until 2021 and will be done via a bidding system.
This is an important issue for county areas, with many County Councils Network (CCN) member councils facing significant infrastructure gaps compared to projected housing developments over the next decade. At the same time, there are a dearth of school places in some areas, with supply failing to match demand.
County leaders have long argued for planning and infrastructure to be closer synced in two-tier county areas, and for infrastructure funding to be more streamlined. This was a key argument in a recent report from the Royal Town Planning Institute which the CCN supported.
Below, the network responds to the government’s announcement:
Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said:
“The government’s recognition that there are issues with meeting demand for school places, particularly as part of new housing developments is welcome.
“This loan funding will go some way to supporting developer cash flows and enable new school provision to be delivered earlier in the life cycle of new large housing developments. Whilst we hope that this pilot scheme is successful, the cost of a new two form of entry primary school typically exceeds £8m and a six form of entry secondary school £30m. If subsequently rolled out, government should, in the longer term, seek to reform the planning system, alongside streamlining infrastructure funding, if we are to deliver the infrastructure needed to serve the needs of future communities.
“The County Councils Network has long called for strategic planning to be re-introduced, with a formal role for the county council working alongside district councils to ensure that infrastructure – including schools – is properly planned and financed to match housing growth.”