24 February 2015, The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published a consultation on speeding up the negotiation of Section 106 planning obligations in England.
This follows on from the Autumn Statement of 2014 which included a commitment to consult on measures to speed up the negotiation and agreement of Section 106 obligations as part of the Government’s commitment to delivering a faster and more effective planning system. The Government is determined to tackle delays in finalising Section 106 agreements as it recognises that this can cause significant delays in the planning process and in the delivery of much needed development.
This consultation seeks views on what mechanisms may be used to speed up the process of agreeing planning obligations. It also seeks views on whether the requirement to provide affordable housing contributions acts as a barrier to development providing dedicated student accommodation.
Responses will inform the consideration of detailed proposals to speed up Section 106 negotiations, which may require primary legislation in the next Parliament. DCLG will consult further on any changes in relation to student accommodation should the responses to this consultation suggest that there is an issue.
In the short-term the Government intends to issue revised guidance that will:
- confirm that Section 106 negotiations should be concluded within statutory timescales
- set expectations of pre-application engagement to front-load discussions
- encourage greater use of standardised clauses
- set expectations for greater transparency about what has been raised through Section 106 and what it has been spent on
In the longer term the Government recognises that delivering real change requires primary legislation. Measures considered include a specific dispute resolution mechanism for Section 106 agreements where statutory or agreed timeframes have elapsed and where parties cannot agree on the scope of the Section 106 agreement. This could include access to external mediation.
The Government is asking for responses to the consultation to consider how mediation or dispute resolution should be triggered, whether or not it should be binding on all parties and for opinions on timescales and fees.
The consultation is available online here and the period in which to respond closes on 19th March 2015.