Repeal Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act

If you assume that a property developer wheeling a barrow load of cash down to the town hall to buy a planning consent would end up in jail, think again.  It is perfectly legal under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

To “legalised bribery” add blackmail and extortion with council planners extracting huge sums of money from developers. Again, there is nothing unlawful about that.

This dark little corner of planning law also allows cosy deals between local authorities and developers which may not always be in the public interest.

The 1990 Act states:

106 Agreements regulating development or use of land

 (1) A local planning authority may enter into an agreement with any person interested in land in their area for the purpose of restricting or regulating the development or use of the land, either permanently or during such period as may be prescribed by the agreement.

(2) Any such agreement may contain such incidental and consequential provisions (including financial ones) as appear to the local planning authority to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the agreement.

Examine any planning consent for a major construction project and you will invariably find that a Section 106 legal agreement has been hatched up between the council planners and the developer. In most cases, the developer pays money – sometimes huge amounts – for his planning consent. Ostensibly, the contribution is to offset the impact of the development on local amenities such as roads and schools.

The problem is that it is up to the developer and the planners to reach a deal and tie it up in a legal agreement. This is unsafe and open to abuse.

Developers can buy influence over ill advised projects by negotiating large financial contributions to the council’s coffers. Greedy councils can also hold cash strapped smaller developers to ransom for extortionate sums.

The financial element of Section 106 agreements should either be taken out of the hands of local planning authorities and regulated by an independent body or scrapped altogether and replaced with a transparent and uniform land development tax that could be used for local roads, schools, etc.

Why is this idea important?

If you assume that a property developer wheeling a barrow load of cash down to the town hall to buy a planning consent would end up in jail, think again.  It is perfectly legal under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

To “legalised bribery” add blackmail and extortion with council planners extracting huge sums of money from developers. Again, there is nothing unlawful about that.

This dark little corner of planning law also allows cosy deals between local authorities and developers which may not always be in the public interest.

The 1990 Act states:

106 Agreements regulating development or use of land

 (1) A local planning authority may enter into an agreement with any person interested in land in their area for the purpose of restricting or regulating the development or use of the land, either permanently or during such period as may be prescribed by the agreement.

(2) Any such agreement may contain such incidental and consequential provisions (including financial ones) as appear to the local planning authority to be necessary or expedient for the purposes of the agreement.

Examine any planning consent for a major construction project and you will invariably find that a Section 106 legal agreement has been hatched up between the council planners and the developer. In most cases, the developer pays money – sometimes huge amounts – for his planning consent. Ostensibly, the contribution is to offset the impact of the development on local amenities such as roads and schools.

The problem is that it is up to the developer and the planners to reach a deal and tie it up in a legal agreement. This is unsafe and open to abuse.

Developers can buy influence over ill advised projects by negotiating large financial contributions to the council’s coffers. Greedy councils can also hold cash strapped smaller developers to ransom for extortionate sums.

The financial element of Section 106 agreements should either be taken out of the hands of local planning authorities and regulated by an independent body or scrapped altogether and replaced with a transparent and uniform land development tax that could be used for local roads, schools, etc.

Make planning applications for affordable housing subject to the same planning restrictions as other applications

Currently in rural areas, planning restrictionscan be waived for applications for  "affordable housing" if the developers and the housing association agree that there is a need for the housing and houses can be built on green field sites, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, outside village boundaries, and so on.  However, too many of these developments once they've been built are being sold to, or rented out to, people from outside the local area because there really wasn't a local need for this "affordable housing."  Planning restrictions should apply equally across the board to all proposed developments in rural areas to help preserve the countryside, to prevent much needed farm land from being built on, to protect biodiversity, to reduce the amount of out-commuting, to help deal with climate change, and to prevent small villages from becoming suburban sprawls.  Also the process for determining local need for "affording housing" needs to be transparent and overseen by a truly independent body (one that's not influenced by developers and housing associations). 

Why is this idea important?

Currently in rural areas, planning restrictionscan be waived for applications for  "affordable housing" if the developers and the housing association agree that there is a need for the housing and houses can be built on green field sites, in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, outside village boundaries, and so on.  However, too many of these developments once they've been built are being sold to, or rented out to, people from outside the local area because there really wasn't a local need for this "affordable housing."  Planning restrictions should apply equally across the board to all proposed developments in rural areas to help preserve the countryside, to prevent much needed farm land from being built on, to protect biodiversity, to reduce the amount of out-commuting, to help deal with climate change, and to prevent small villages from becoming suburban sprawls.  Also the process for determining local need for "affording housing" needs to be transparent and overseen by a truly independent body (one that's not influenced by developers and housing associations). 

Prevent developers re-submitting plans under different application numbers

Often a planning application will be submitted to local council planning departments and published generating hundreds of objections. These objections may be completely valid to the application and will put severe pressure on the council to reject the plans.

The developer can then withdraw their application, wait a short time, and resubmit their plans (maybe adding some minor changes to justify themselves) and the application is re-posted with a different application number.

This then means all of the previously submitted objections have now disappeared and the developer has a clean slate for effectively the same plan. This forces objectors to re-object. Do this enough and it is likely the amount of objections will be reduced substantially.

There appears to be no limits on this behaviour at present and it is a loophole that entirely benefits a developer and nobody else. I believe this loophole must be closed.

Why is this idea important?

Often a planning application will be submitted to local council planning departments and published generating hundreds of objections. These objections may be completely valid to the application and will put severe pressure on the council to reject the plans.

The developer can then withdraw their application, wait a short time, and resubmit their plans (maybe adding some minor changes to justify themselves) and the application is re-posted with a different application number.

This then means all of the previously submitted objections have now disappeared and the developer has a clean slate for effectively the same plan. This forces objectors to re-object. Do this enough and it is likely the amount of objections will be reduced substantially.

There appears to be no limits on this behaviour at present and it is a loophole that entirely benefits a developer and nobody else. I believe this loophole must be closed.