Section 106 Legal Agreements (Agenda Item 8)
To receive a presentation regarding the current position relating to the Section 106 process and monitoring arrangements.
The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) gave a PowerPoint presentation to Members. He explained that changes in the way that legal agreements were dealt with and monitored had been introduced.
Legal agreements have to serve a planning purpose and be directly related to the planning proposal and were not used if a requirement could be conditioned. They were usually linked to land and stayed with the land when ownership changed. They were legally binding on the landowner and could be legally enforced through the courts.
Agreements were used in a number of ways, usually for the control of land, for example to provide affordable housing. They could also be used to require facilities such as open space or financial contributions to local services. Other more recent uses of S106 Agreements were to ensure sustainable construction, for the management of wildlife areas and for the provision of public art.
Over the last nine months there had been a number of changes to the processing of agreements as follows:
- An attempt to speed up the process - as agreements can lead to significant delays affecting performance figures. This included developing standard templates and producing guidance notes for applicants.
- The promotion of more informed discussion to allow people to comment. There was now a requirement for a Planning Obligation Statement to be submitted with a major application in which developers set out their proposed contributions, making clear to consultees what was being offered.
- Proper monitoring and enforcement. The Planning Obligations Officer would monitor the progress of agreements and ensure that actions were co-ordinated.
Previously agreements were drafted after Committee approval. Now they were drafted during the consideration process so that when an application was presented to Development Control Committee it would be accompanied by a draft heads of terms for a 106. Following consideration by the Committee the agreement would be finalised. However, if it was not possible to do this within the statutory timescale, authority to refuse the application would be sought from the Committee.
Feedback on the new changes had been very positive from consultees and developers.
Monitoring of agreements was critical to ensure that community benefits were delivered. There were various ‘trigger points’ and a need to ensure there was no delay between development and benefits being provided as there was a ‘claw-back’ clause for developers if money was not spent within five years.
Following an audit, changes to the Ocella database had been requested to improve its monitoring capacity. Ocella was a software system used nationally by many Local Authorities and changes had to be agreed by its User Group. Breckland was taking the lead in the use of Ocella’s S106 monitoring system and our suggested enhancements had been well received by other Councils.
The monitoring system was up and running and could now record the receipt of contributions and itemise where and when monies were spent. A system was being developed to enable quarterly reports to be run, by Ward if required, to show what money was allocated to each area and for what purpose.
A monitoring charge had been introduced which worked out at about £250 for a simple S106 agreement and £500 per Head of Term for more complex agreements. So far this year £5,000 had been raised in this way.
It was intended to produce a Newsletter to publicise the contributions being received and to make clear where the money was being spent.