Councils could receive financial rewards if they sign binding agreements with the developers of large and complex schemes.

The government says it will assess the incentives required to encourage authorities to enter into the planning delivery agreements that were announced this week by Yvette Cooper, the minister for planning.

Under the agreements, local authorities and applicants hold talks early in the life of a project. They then sign contracts that identify milestones and timescales for delivery by the local authority and the developer.

In particular, the council specifies how the planning application will be delivered. The council commits itself to making a decision within a set time and developers undertake to consult those affected by its scheme.

The initiative, which is being supported by English Partnerships' Advisory Team for Large Applications, is designed to find ways of removing blockages in the planning system.

The government has said that the agreements will be tried in 24 projects.

The council commits itself to making a decision on planning within a set time

Persimmon and Redrow are piloting the initiative on the 1500-home Peacock Farm scheme that they are developing in Bracknell Forest, Hampshire.

Berkeley Homes is testing the procedure on its Kingsmead scheme in Canterbury, Kent, which has been designed by architect Rolfe Judd. That has 260 dwellings.

The biggest pilot is a 6000-home settlement being developed by Holdfast Training Services in the Medway area of the Thames Gateway.