With a closing date of 8 October, government has started consulting on giving developers the option to ask councils to renegotiate planning obligations – Section 106 agreements – agreed before April 2010, while the Local Government Association (LGA) says ‘it’s not the answer’.
Currently these obligations cannot be renegotiated for five years once a council refuses a request for voluntary renegotiation by a developer.
This move came as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced help from independent and expert brokers to renegotiate s106 agreements.
Brokers will begin work immediately with an initial wave of councils that are keen to address obstacles that are preventing development in their area before working with other councils around the country. The experts will:
· provide technical expertise to unlock negotiations
· act as go-betweens in disputes
· offer access to a range of support services.
Councils in Leeds, Ipswich, Corby, Swindon, Ashford, Gloucester, Kirklees, Carlisle, Northumberland and Durham will the first to benefit from this initiative.
The minister said: ‘Tackling problems with stalled development is essential to getting builders back on moth-balled sites and building the homes we need. There is huge potential in sites to boost local economies and we simply cannot afford to have them lying idle because of earlier agreements that are no longer viable.
‘The support and advice the expert brokers will offer is one of the many measures we have introduced to get development under way and I hope councils grab this chance to make use of the support we are offering.’
The Department for Communities and Local Government has said that any renegotiations of agreements will not remove the developer’s obligation to provide critical infrastructure or other contributions to offset the effects of the development, and they should not result in land banking.
Pat Ritchie, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, said: ‘As a sector we need to see as many stalled sites as possible unlocked to deliver much needed new homes. We are currently using our investment to do this through Get Britain Building, while our support in unlocking large projects in the planning system – through our ATLAS team – is highly valued by local authorities and the private sector.
‘So where sites are stalled because of agreements signed under very different economic conditions, we will work with councils to help see how we can get them moving again while meeting the needs and priorities of local communities.’
It is estimated that there are currently more than 1,400 housing schemes of more than 10 housing units with planning permission that are stalled and unblocking these developments is a key part of the Government’s housing strategy.
The consultation proposes that for planning obligations agreed on or prior to 6 April 2010, the relevant local authority can be asked to formally renegotiate the terms one month after the introduction of new regulations. In effect this will mean that the formal period of five years is reduced to between two and half and five years for these obligations. For all planning obligations agreed after 6 April 2010, the period will remain at five years.
Meanwhile, the LGA writes:
Responding to Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) proposals which would allow developers to ask councils to renegotiate previously agreed Section 106 obligations, Cllr Mike Jones, Chairman of the LGA Environment Board, said: ‘It is in no one’s interest to see important developments stall and councils are working hard to find ways of getting projects underway, including looking again at Section 106 agreements where appropriate.
‘These agreements ensure developers provide vital infrastructure for local communities, from roads and street lighting to parks and community centres. In most cases, negotiating away benefits is not the answer to stalled development. Lack of liquidity in the finance market and limited availability of mortgages stagnating demand are the real hurdles to viability, not the cost of providing much-needed Section 106 infrastructure.’
‘Local authorities across the country have been working to overcome the real barriers to new building by contributing land and assets, forming partnerships with developers and overwhelmingly saying ‘yes’ to growth through the planning system. Councils will welcome in principle the offer of support from the Homes and Communities Agency to renegotiate agreements should it be required. However, help should only come at the specific request of individual councils. It is very important that assistance is not imposed as it sends the message to developers and the community that infrastructure contributions are at risk.’
‘Renegotiating away contributions that benefit local residents and businesses could prove hugely counterproductive as it is likely to undermine trust in the planning process and increase public opposition towards new development.’
The consultation document on renegotiating S106 agreements, with responses due by 8 October, can be found at: LINK
For the consultation announcement see: LINK
Dept of Communities News: LINK
Search Planning Portal: LINK