I have always been concerned about the moral implications of so-called "planning gain" as I consider it little more than an inducement for a local authority to grant planning permission. If such offers were not requested and made so visibly, would we not consider them to be bribes?
And if one accepts the principle of planning gain for the benefit of the community, then surely the option to offer planning gain should be available to all applicants, no matter who they are and the size of the project?
In other words, if it is possible for an oversized development to pay for car parking spaces, why shouldn't the average householder extending their house without sufficient parking space be able to buy off a likely planning refusal in a similar manner? I know of a case where a developer was allowed to build a large office building with an open communal area that was agreed as not part of the office accommodation and therefore acceptable in the green belt. At the same time, the average local householder can not extend a house by more than 30% for fear of making an "intrusion" into the green belt. To be consistent, it should be possible for the householder to enter into a similar section 106 agreement to ensure that their large hallway would not be used for residential purposes and should not counted as part of the 30% limit.
It is this type of inconsistency that undermines the credibility of the planning process. My local experience is that some "contributors" obtain permission for developments that would by normal standards be unacceptable, and in some cases do not comply with the town plan.
Robert Falkner RIBA, Egham, Surrey