Following on from the Government’s commitment in the Autumn Statement 2014 to consult on measures to speed up negotiations and agreement under s.106 Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a consultation paper has been released. The paper seeks to canvass opinion on 14 questions and proposals which include:
- Are s.106 negotiations a significant source of delay in the planning process?
- Should legislative changes be made to incentivise a prompt conclusion to negotiations/invoke sanctions where there are excessive delays or disputes?
- Should a dispute resolution system be available if statutory timescales are breached in concluding s.106 negotiations?
- If so, should there should be some form of deemed approval given?
- Or alternatively should a binding external mediation system be put in place involving an external body or suitably qualified individual to determine disputes?
In the introduction the Government also requests views on whether the requirement to provide affordable housing contributions acts as a barrier to development providing dedicated student accommodation.
Commenting on the consultation paper, Penningtons Manches real estate lawyer, Mark Burrows, said: “There is no doubt that concluding section 106 agreements can be time consuming and and cause significant delays in the development process, particularly given the understandable tendency of local authorities to instruct their legal departments only after any resolution has been passed to grant planning permission.
"While we welcome improvements to speed up that process, whether this can be achieved in practice remains to be seen. Despite the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy, it is clear that there will always be tension when it comes to agreeing a settlement between two parties with differing interests and previous governments have tried and failed to speed up section 106 negotiations. It is hoped that a workable process can be devised this time round and the industry’s response to these proposals should be interesting.”
The paper is available here and the consultation period closes on 19 March 2015.