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'LONDON DESERVES MORE FROM THE PLANNING SYSTEM'

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The 'Planning Obligations in London' report, which feeds into the mayor's draft London Plan*, looks at the potentia...
The 'Planning Obligations in London' report, which feeds into the mayor's draft London Plan*, looks at the potential of planning obligations (section 106 agreements) to provide community benefits such as affordable housing, transport and environmental improvements and community facilities.

The report found that there is an increasing incidence of planning obligations in London, supported by economic growth and rising property values, but says a more consistent approach is needed across boroughs.

The report identifies the need to ensure that planning agreements are based on thorough assessments of local need. It also recommends that the mayor's London Plan should require boroughs to include general and specific planning obligations policies to offset the adverse impacts of development in their Unitary Development Plans (UDPs). Their local plans should also support mayor's objectives on transport and affordable housing.

Ken Livingstone said:

'Since coming to office I have secured much more in the way of affordable housing, transport and other community benefits through negotiating with developers on strategic schemes and it's clear from this report that even more can be achieved through more effective use of the planning process.

'London is set to grow massively in the next decade and a half and I am committed to ensuring that all Londoners, not just property developers and landowners, reap the benefits. My message is clear - development will not be permitted unless it makes adequate provision for the community it serves.'

The report identifies huge variation in policy and practice between the London boroughs, with only six having a formal code of practice or protocol. It also points to contradictions between government guidance and more recent Court decisions relating to planning obligations in London. Both problems, it says, can be overcome by the adoption of strategic policies in the mayor's London Plan, which must then be reflected in borough's local plans, and through greater use of supplementary planning guidance and development briefs.

In the short term, the report also recommends that the mayor seek a revised circular from the government on planning obligations, requiring:

- local needs assessments, undertaken by the mayor, boroughs and developers

- advice on whether a facility can provided off site or in another borough

- more financial openness to prevent accusations of 'behind closed doors deals'

- developers to submit financial appraisals where planning obligations are proposed to demonstrate viability

- model agreements to provide greater consistency between local authorities

The mayor supports the government's proposal to reform the planning obligations system set out in the planning Green Paper and associated documents.

The mayor has already secured more affordable housing or contributions towards transport or other community facilities in numerous development schemes, including hundred of extra affordable homes.

Notes

Planning obligations have been available to planning authorities for over 30 years,

The mayor does not have the power to enter a planning agreement but he can force a local planning authority to reject an application he feels fails to provide adequate facilities.

The principal guidance on planning obligations is set out in government circular 1/97 and guidance on planning conditions is set out in Circular 11/95.

In 'Towards the London Plan', the mayor proposed to use the planning system, together with greater public subsidy, to secure a 50% affordable housing target in two thirds of London boroughs. And 35% in the remaining third of boroughs. A model has been developed for the GLA by Three Dragons and Nottingham Trent University to assess the viability of affordable housing within residential developments.

The principal concerns on planning guidance relate to the absence of clear requirements by planning authorities, lack of openness of negotiations, the inability to obtain fair contributions towards facilities when several developments are proposed, delays in the process and the courts taking a less restrictive approach than indicated in government guidance.

* The mayor's draft London Plan was published on 21 June 2002 and is available here.

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