Planning gains transparency

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

The beginning of September saw new rules come into force requiring local planning authorities to publish what they have spent S106 and CIL monies on. This has been prompted by reports that councils are not spending the money as intended, and in some cases having to repay it back to developers.

This view is supported by recent research undertaken by Property Week. It revealed that £2.6million of the monies collected between 2013 and 2018 remained unspent. The publication made freedom-of-information requests to all 343 local councils and received responses from 210. A total of £4billion was collected by those councils during the period but 63 per cent remained unspent. More than 40 councils failed or refused to respond to the FOI requests suggesting this may just be the tip of an iceberg.

In 2016/17, all councils received a total of over £6billion as S106 and CIL contributions but none of them were obliged to state where it had gone. From December 2020 all councils will have to publish an annual report detailing what the monies have been on.

Having to publish this information will improve transparency of the system to residents: they will be able to see what money councils have received and what it has been spent on, or is due to be spent on. It will help demonstrate to residents that developers are making contributions and that the community is benefiting from planning gain.

It will also highlight where contributions have been ‘swallowed’ into a councils general funding or where projects and contributions have not been delivered or used as agreed.

This may well lead to councils coming under greater pressure from its residents to improve performance, and may even lead to an increase in developers seeking repayment of their un-utilised S106 payments!