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Planning Obligations vs Planning Conditions

Planning House is here to demystify the complexities of planning, and in this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of the differences between planning conditions and planning obligations. What is a Planning Obligation? A planning...

Planning House is here to demystify the complexities of planning, and in this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of the differences between planning conditions and planning obligations.

What is a Planning Obligation?

A planning obligation is a powerful tool in the form of a legal agreement that allows authorities to impose restrictions on developers. These obligations often require developers to minimize the impact on the local community and carry out tasks that provide community benefits. They can even include the payment of sums of money.

Planning obligations are only utilized when addressing unacceptable impacts through planning conditions is not feasible. There are two main ways to secure developer obligations for a proposed development: through a section 106 agreement (s106 agreement) or a Unilateral Undertaking.

A section 106 agreement is a legal agreement between local authorities, developers, and any other party with an interest in the site. It gets its name from the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which refers to planning obligations. On the other hand, a unilateral undertaking is a simplified version of a s106 agreement, providing a quicker and more straightforward process. It is entered into by the landowner and any other party with a legal interest in the development site. Unilateral undertakings ensure that planning permissions are granted swiftly, benefiting both applicants and the council.

Planning Obligations vs Planning Conditions Planning obligations vs planning conditions

For further details on planning obligations, refer to our Practical Guide on Planning Obligations.

What are Planning Conditions?

Instead of refusing a planning application, a local planning authority (LPA) may grant permission subject to certain conditions. Most approvals come with standard conditions related to the time frame for starting development and the materials to be used. However, the conditions imposed can vary between LPAs.

When are they used?

Planning conditions should be kept to a minimum and only imposed if they meet the following criteria:

  • Necessary: The condition is necessary to prevent the application from being refused.
  • Relevant to planning: The condition aligns with planning objectives and falls within the scope of the attached permission.
  • Related to the development: The condition is fair and reasonable in relation to the development.
  • Enforceable: The condition can be practically enforced.
  • Precise: The condition is clear and understandable to the applicant and others.
  • Reasonable: The condition is reasonable in all respects.

Section 106 agreements are drafted when it is deemed that a development's impacts cannot be managed through planning conditions alone. To enter into a s106 agreement, the obligations must satisfy the tests outlined in the National Planning Policy Framework. These tests include determining if the planning obligation is necessary, directly related to the development, and fairly and reasonably scaled in relation to the development.

It is important to note that the land itself, rather than the developer, is bound by a s106 agreement. Any future owners of the land will need to take this into account.

What do they cover?

Planning obligations (s106 agreement) can cover a wide range of aspects, including:

  • Restricting the development or use of the land in specific ways.
  • Requiring certain operations or activities to be carried out on the land.
  • Mandating the land to be used in a specific manner.
  • Demanding financial contributions to the authority.

The specific terms of a s106 agreement will vary depending on the nature of the development and the needs of the local authority. Common obligations include providing public open space, affordable housing, education facilities, highways improvements, and environmental enhancements.

Planning conditions, on the other hand, regulate how works should be undertaken, require specific actions to be carried out, and can control or restrict future development or uses.

Can You Change/Modify a s106 Agreement or Conditions?

Yes, s106 agreements can be renegotiated or modified even after they have been completed. To modify or discharge an agreement, you need to justify the need for the change. For example, you may need to prove that costs have significantly increased. Evidence such as financial viability assessments, invoices, and quotes to support the increase in costs would be required. It's essential to understand the process, and our Practical Guide to Modification of s106 Planning Obligation Agreement provides detailed information.

In terms of planning conditions, if you believe that a condition fails to meet the six tests previously mentioned, you can apply to modify or remove it through a s73 application. The application fee for this process is £234. If your application is refused, you have the right to appeal the decision. However, regardless of the outcome, the original permission remains valid, and only the condition is modified or removed.

It's also worth noting that there is a mechanism to appeal the imposition of a condition on the initial application without going through the process of modifying or removing the condition. However, appealing at that stage carries the risk of the entire application being reconsidered and potentially refused. For more information on this, refer to our blog How do you Amend a Planning Permission - s96a v's s73.

How Can Planning House Help?

If you require assistance, please feel free to contact us to discuss your situation. Not sure if we're the right fit for you? Take a look at our blog on When to Hire a Town Planner and our guide on How to Choose a Town Planner to help you find the right town planner for your needs.

Related Content

  • Take a look at our eBook: CIL & s106 - It provides a basic understanding of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and developments that may trigger the need for additional works or financial contributions through s106 agreements. It's better to be aware of the potential financial implications in advance.
  • For a more in-depth look at planning conditions and s106 agreements, explore our Practical Guides to Planning Condition and Practical Guide to Planning Obligations.
  • Planning House has successfully secured approval for the modification of previously agreed s106 legal agreements for residential developments. Our expertise helped navigate the challenges posed by spiraling costs associated with archaeological works, ensuring the viability of the schemes. Read more about our planning successes in modifying s106 legal agreements and planning conditions.
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