Trusts could lose out huge opportunities to gain funding for acute healthcare services when applications for new housing developments are submitted to local planning authorities.

Shakespeare Martineau specialist planning lawyer Leenamari Aantaa-Collier said: “Some Trusts have managed to secure significant sums in support funding from developers. However, they are few and far between.

“Others could be missing out on opportunities because they are failing to present their case to local planning authorities in a proactive and well-evidenced way.”

Recently, the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust secured financial contributions from residential developers through the system of planning obligations under s.106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

With regard to South Warwickshire, this will mean an estimated £10m in planning contributions from new residential development in its patient area over the coming years.

 South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust director of development and deputy CEO said: “Securing these additional contributions has been absolutely essential to safeguard the Trust’s ability to maintain the delivery of high-quality services in the face of increasing demand caused by the significant housing growth in our patient area.”

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Legally, local planning authorities have to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development and the creation and maintenance of healthy communities. Therefore, local planning policies must be developed and acted upon with this idea.  It implies the potential practical and unfunded financial impacts that new developments will have on NHS services must be considered while determining planning applications. 

Detailing the steps that trusts should take to secure planning contributions, Leenamari Aantaa-Collier added: “The first step is for Trusts to understand the impact that any infrastructure changes and planned housing developments are likely to have on healthcare services in their area. Of course, each hospital is different, and obtaining clear and comprehensive information will help to ensure the actual impact on funding is properly understood. A robust, evidence-based case can then be developed in support of a requirement for developer contributions to healthcare provision.

“By liaising directly with local planning authority, Trusts can ensure their requirement for a planning contribution is included within any s.106 agreement – a commonly-used agreement by developers and the relevant local planning authority to mitigate a development’s impact on local infrastructure and services. It may also be appropriate to request that the impact of a planned development features at the top, or near the top, of any Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging schedule. This will improve the Trust’s chances of securing a planning contribution greatly.”

Trusts need to engage their local planning authority and only then will be ready to make the most of opportunities that might arise when new developments are being planned.