PAYMENTS for a new 3G pitch at Shaftesbury football club have been questioned by a town councillor.

Cllr Karen Tippins has asked Dorset Council to justify why it released a pot of money from developers it held on behalf of the town, to the town council, for it to then pledge to part-fund a new synthetic pitch.

In a public question to the Dorset Council cabinet on Tuesday she said: “Why has Dorset Council released s106 funding (contributions from developers) to Shaftesbury Town Council for a 3G football pitch project without proof of a council resolution and without proof that this s106 money was not needed to be spent on what was originally stated in the s106 agreement?”

Cllr Tippin claims the s106 money, or at least part of it, was earmarked for her East ward.

Dorset Echo: Shaftesbury Football Club

Planning portfolio holder, Gillingham councillor David Walsh, said the decision had been made to support the pitch at the December 2020 Shaftesbury town council meeting – which the town council cited when it applied to Dorset Council for the funds.

Said Cllr Walsh: “There was flexibility built into a number of the Shaftesbury Section 106 agreements around 2010 and 2011, allowing the original purpose to be widened to enable funding to support projects which served the town. A paper went to Shaftesbury Town Council’s full council meeting on 8 December setting this out.

"Notwithstanding this, the control and use of Section 106 is considered against a series of government regulations on a case by case basis. These considerations form part of a comprehensive appraisal process by Dorset Council.”

Cllr Tippins claims that most of the Shaftesbury s106 contributions was supposed to be spent on community facilities in the town's East ward and has asked Dorset Council to ensure the ward gets its fair share of the developer contributions.

Cllr Walsh told the cabinet meeting that a new protocol to deal with developer and other contributions was about to be adopted by Dorset Council which would ensure awards are made in an objective and fair way and that the funds will be spent in line with the purposes for which they were collected.

He said that although the s106 funding was often applied for or administered by town and parish councils, on behalf of their communities, there was nothing to stop another ‘appropriate body’ making applications and running schemes.

The Cabinet  meeting heard that a Community Interest Company in Shaftesbury is trying to gain control of a plot of undeveloped Persimmon Homes land for a community hall and play park at Mampitts Lane, along with S106 money promised for the development as part of the company’s community contribution.

The aims have been backed by a 600 signature residents petition. The company made a bid in July 2020 for Dorset Council to nominate it to deliver and run the hall and park.

Said a statement to the Cabinet: “Our Community Land Trust is the only ‘third party body’ who are guaranteeing to deliver these much-needed planning obligation community facilities on this site, thereby ensuring s106 funds are spent on their intended locations and purposes.  We are very content to enter into an agreement with Dorset Council that will hold us accountable and to fulfil these s106 obligations.”