MHCLG has today issued further planning guidance to try and help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the development industry. The updated guidance covers a range of areas, including the use of social media to publicise planning applications, and their intention to amend the Community Infrastructure Regulations 2010 (yet again) to provide more flexibility.
They have also encouraged Local Planning Authorities to take a "pragmatic and proportionate approach to the enforcement of section 106 planning obligations during this period", suggesting deeds of variation be concluded to allow developers to defer delivery of certain obligations.
This contrasts with the approach taken during the financial crash where specific provisions (s106BA-BC) were introduced fairly swiftly. This established a formal procedure where developers obtained some certainty that they would not be beholden to "agreeing" a variation with the Local Planning Authority, but also set concrete delivery deadlines for the affected developments.
Greater pragmatism will of course be needed across the board in the future to aid recovery, but why not reintroduce rather than just relax?
Section 106 There are greater flexibilities within s106 planning obligations than CIL. Where the delivery of a planning obligation, such as a financial contribution, is triggered during this period, local authorities are encouraged to consider whether it would be appropriate to allow the developer to defer delivery. Deferral periods could be time-limited, or linked to the government’s wider legislative approach and the lifting of CIL easements (although in this case we would encourage the use of a back-stop date). Deeds of variation can be used to agree these changes. Local authorities should take a pragmatic and proportionate approach to the enforcement of section 106 planning obligations during this period. This should help remove barriers for developers and minimise the stalling of sites.