Planning agreements practice note 2021: What you need to know
Planning agreements, also known as section 106 agreements, have long been a vital tool for local planning authorities to secure contributions from developers to fund local infrastructure and affordable housing. The use of planning agreements has been subject to a number of reforms and updates over the years, and the most recent update comes in the form of the Planning Agreements Practice Note 2021.
The Practice Note, which was published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in March 2021, provides guidance to planning authorities and developers on the use of planning agreements. The note replaces the previous practice guidance from 2010 and takes into account the changes brought about by the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which introduced a number of reforms to the planning system.
So, what are the key changes brought about by the Planning Agreements Practice Note 2021? Here are some of the main points to be aware of:
1. Early engagement and transparency
One of the key themes running through the Practice Note is the importance of early engagement and transparency between planning authorities and developers. The Note emphasises that planning authorities should be clear about their expectations from the outset of the planning application process, and developers should be encouraged to engage with the authority early on to discuss any potential planning obligations.
2. Focusing on infrastructure and affordable housing
The Practice Note places a particular emphasis on the importance of securing contributions from developers towards local infrastructure and affordable housing. It states that planning authorities should clearly set out their infrastructure and affordable housing requirements, and that developers should be expected to contribute towards these costs.
3. Variations and reviews
The Practice Note acknowledges that planning agreements may need to be varied or reviewed over time, particularly if there are changes to the development proposal or to the local infrastructure needs. It suggests that planning authorities should include provisions in planning agreements that allow for flexibility in these circumstances.
4. Monitoring and enforcement
The Practice Note highlights the importance of effective monitoring and enforcement of planning agreements, to ensure that the obligations are fulfilled and that the contributions are made in a timely manner. It suggests that planning authorities should have robust monitoring and reporting systems in place, and should take enforcement action where necessary.
Overall, the Planning Agreements Practice Note 2021 provides useful guidance for both planning authorities and developers on the use of planning agreements. By emphasising the importance of early engagement, transparency and a focus on infrastructure and affordable housing, the Note is designed to support the delivery of sustainable and inclusive development. It is worth noting that the guidance is not legally binding, but it is likely to be influential in shaping the approach taken by planning authorities and developers in the years ahead.