Speedier Section 106 Agreements?

Speedier Section 106 Agreements?

 

speedoAnother month, another consultation on the planning system. The Government's tinkering shows no signs of slowing down with DCLG having just fired the latest warning shot in the wider battle to speed up the planning process. This time it's s.106 Agreements that are firmly in the crosshairs.

 

'Section 106 planning obligations – speeding up negotiations' followed a commitment made in the Autumn Statement in 2014 to speed up the negotiation and conclusion of these agreements. Viewed by many as a frustratingly protracted and complex part of the planning applications process, the consultation looks at ways to prevent delays to development attributable to concluding s.106 Agreements.

Guidance before Legislation

Despite being issued as a consultation document, paragraph 13 suggests that changes to Government guidance will be forthcoming. As a short–term measure and precursor to legislative change, we are told that it will:

1. Confirm that negotiations should be concluded within statutory timescales;

2. Set expectations of earlier engagement at the pre-application stage to front-load discussions;

3. Encourage greater use of standardised clauses to minimize drafting from scratch; and

4. Set expectations for greater transparency over contributions both in respect of what has been raised and where the money has been spent.

Dispute Resolution

The most intriguing proposal here is the suggestion of a dispute resolution mechanism to kick in when statutory or agreed timeframes have expired. It is here where the Government envisages that legislative change would likely be required.

Two particular scenarios are identified as being suitable for such a mechanism:

1. Where the scale and scope of mitigation measures required to make the development acceptable in planning terms cannot be agreed between the parties; and

2. Where the parties agree on the Section 106 “ask” but the process of completing the necessary agreement drags on beyond statutory or agreed timeframes.

So far, so good. But who should oversee such a mechanism? Well, for obvious reasons, it must be an external body or 'suitably qualified' individual who would help determine what was necessary to make a proposed development acceptable with their judgment being binding on the parties.

Beyond this, there is also a sugg

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