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Consultation launched on ways to speed-up Section 106 negotiations

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03/03/2015

The Consultation seeks views from interested members of the public on proposals relating to:

  • speeding-up the negotiation and completion of Section 106 Agreements; and
  • whether the requirement for provision of affordable housing contributions is a barrier to development of dedicated student accommodation.

Consultation Details

Section 106 Agreements

Section 106 Agreements between developers and local planning authorities (LPAs), outlining infrastructure and resource obligations on the parties in relation to new developments, are currently subject to statutory time-limits at the initial negotiation stage. The legislation provides that Agreements should be completed within eight weeks, or 13 weeks for major development. However, in reality, the parties often agree an extension of time. This can lead to negotiation and completion becoming protracted, resulting in significant delays to the planning application / decision-making process. In turn, the delivery of housing and commercial development is adversely affected.

DCLG therefore proposes a number of changes to ensure a more streamlined process.

  • Revised guidance is to:
    • confirm that section 106 negotiations should be concluded within the statutory time-frames;
    • stress the expectation that pre-application discussions will take place between all parties, rather than only commencing later in the application process;
    • support the use of precedent, standard clauses; and
    • encourage greater transparency about the monies to be raised and how this will be spent.
  • Introduction of a dispute resolution process:
    • for concluding Section 106 Agreements where statutory or agreed timescales are breached;
    • involving the provision of access to external mediation, self-funded by the parties;
    • potentially creating a binding Section 106 Agreement; and
    • potentially involving determination of the related planning application; but
    • avoiding any automatic / deemed agreement process – i.e. whereby a draft Agreement or Unilateral Undertaking would automatically be effective if no consensus was reached.
  • Introduction of / alteration to primary legislation in the next Parliament to ensure resolution of delays and disputes in a timely manner.
Affordable housing contributions on student accommodation

Some LPAs seek affordable housing contributions within Section 106 Agreements on development applications for dedicated student accommodation. There is concern within DCLG that this deters plans for dedicated student housing, which would otherwise release low-cost properties currently rented to students by individual private landlords.

The Consultation therefore seeks views on whether the requirement to provide affordable housing contributions is a barrier. Further guidance is also to be issued to LPAs vis-a-vis the student accommodation policies in their Local Plans.

Consultation Response

The Consultation was officially launched with publication of the formal document on 20 February 2015.  Any member of the public interested in the proposals may respond, within the deadline of Thursday 19 March. The Consultation’s outcome is likely to be known within a couple of months of the closing date.

Comment

Planning Minister, Brandon Lewis, has stated: “Section 106 planning agreements can bring great benefits to local communities but too often they drag out planning applications for months”. The ongoing role for Section 106 Agreements has therefore been acknowledged.  However, an interesting consideration is how the changes will practically interact with the Community Infrastructure Levy – at least in areas where this will be operative from April 2015. Mediation has previously been trialled for renegotiation of Section 106 Agreements on stalled sites, but the uptake was limited. In addition, any mediated agreement does not automatically bring ‘closure’ as it is not automatically binding on the parties involved. Further, will these measures have any positive impact for LPAs with limited legal personnel and resources? And will it be possible for any changes to come to fruition before May’s General Election?

For more information on the possible impact of the changes or the process for submitting representations, contact the Planning and Environment team at Walker Morris.

Contacts