Government plans to replace section 106 deals with a fixed-rate community improvement levy

Planning and housing minister Keith Hill has outlined plans for developers to pay a fixed contribution to community improvements rather than negotiate section 106 “planning gain” agreements with local authorities.

The proposals envisage the introduction of a planning tariff to replace section 106 arrangements, which Hill said were unnecessarily time-consuming.

The proposed charge would be set by local authorities, and would vary according to the anticipated impact of development on an area.

Currently, property companies barter with authorities over how much the developer should contribute towards community improvements in exchange for planning permission.

Hill’s is also proposing to allow local authorities to ask for affordable housing to be provided as part of a planning package.

Hill said the proposals would “speed up the delivery of affordable housing for those who need it most”.

However, the House Builders Federation dismissed the move, saying it added nothing of value to other reforms. An HBF spokesperson said: “Hill’s proposals seem to reiterate the government’s drive to simplify section 106, but it’s difficult to see what they’re really doing in a practical sense.”

The spokesperson added that a standard charge might not take into account all factors affecting a development. He said: “Negotiations do take time, but to a great extent they are the only way we can ensure 106 contributions are proportionate to the viability of a particular site.”

The National Housing Federation, which speaks for the social housing sector, agreed. A spokesperson said: “We would caution against seeing standard charges as a cure-all.”

Hill’s proposals, made at the BCSC Annual Conference and Retail Showcase in Manchester, will be published in a revised draft circular on negotiated planning obligations.

The minister also announced the publication of a circular explaining how local authorities should use the compulsory purchase powers awarded to them under the Planning Act.