The Autumn statement 2014 included an assurance of steps to speed up s.106 negotiations and CLG have just published a consultation on this. The consultation acknowledges that primary legislation may be needed for some proposals.
Interestingly, the consultation begins with the clear statement that "Community Infrastructure Levy is the Government’s preferred mechanism for collecting developer contributions to infrastructure identified as necessary to support the development of an area". I say "interesting", because this is not a view shared by all local planning authorities! Nevertheless, there is no denying that for a lot of planning applications, delay in settling the terms of s.106 obligations does lead to delay. So what does CLG propose?
- amendments to guidance to include making clear that s 106 negotiations should be part of pre-application discussions and should conclude during statutory determination periods. Although this is often provided for in planning performance agreements, it is still the case that LPAs prefer not to give instructions to their lawyers until after committee has resolved to approve.
- some form of dispute resolution to unlock situations where the parties cannot agree terms, and the statutory time limit has elapsed. CLG is open minded about what this might look like and is hoping consultation responses might produce some solutions, but it looks unlikely that any "deemed" solution will be workable.
- reference to an external expert is more likely - with power to bind the parties to a solution.
As well as the consultation on s.106 "process", the paper also asks for information on the trend in some areas for seeking affordable housing contributions in relation to student accommodation proposals, and whether this is a barrier to bringing forward dedicated student accommodation.