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Report recommends Welsh LPAs produce guidance for planning obligations

Words: Laura Edgar

New research by the Welsh Government has found that there are over 400 development sites across the country that are currently stalled, with nearly half of them involving a S.106 agreement.

Therefore the research recommends that all Welsh local planning authorities (LPAs) should produce supplementary planning guidance specifically concerning planning obligations.

Published by the Welsh Government, Stalled sites and S.106 agreements states that nearly all of the stalled sites are for residential development, with at least 7,600 homes currently being tied up.

The purpose of the report was to identify all the sites in Wales that are stalled due to issues relating to a S.106 agreement.

The research, prepared for the Welsh Government by Hyder Consulting (UK) Limited, used case study analysis to find out why sites had stalled and also involved discussions with planning and legal officers, developers and agents, to find out why they had stalled from a variety of perspectives.

While the report finds that “no single factor” is responsible for site development stalling, “difficulties and delays in securing finance, resulting in a subsequent need for re-negotiation of S.106 agreements” is identified as a key reason.

Additionally, there is “significant variation” across the country in terms of procedure, approaches and resourcing of LPAs as applied to S.106 matters, “site-specific factors that vary from application to application, and changing developer circumstances and general level of awareness of the S.106 process”.

The report makes several recommendations to improve the transparency of the S.106 system and encourage greater awareness and knowledge of processes within it, including:

  • All LPAs should produce supplementary planning guidance, specifically in relation to planning obligations.

  • The Welsh Government and local planning authorities should encourage prospective applicants to incorporate information relating to potential contributions and draft heads of terms within a Planning Obligations Statement or, where appropriate, a Planning Statement, as a starting point for negotiations.

  • A post-decision timescale would be of use to both LPAs and applicants, to raise awareness and to provide a focus for action. This could be flexible to suit individual authorities but could include time periods for issuing draft agreements to applicants.

  • Training should be provided for the skills to deal with S.106 applications and good practice should be shared where necessary between LPAs.

  • The Welsh Government should provide guidance on approaches to S.106 agreements where the local authority is the landowner.

To read the report and see the full list of recommendations, please visit the Welsh Government’s website.