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Pickles names planning 'mediator' councils

Ministers have named 10 councils as pilots for intervention in their planning gain policies.

The councils will “benefit from expert advice” and will work with “expert brokers” to identify key stalled developments that they want to get up and running through the renegotiation of agreements that allow councils to secure the community facilities needed in return for granting planning permission.

The statement makes clear that any renegotiations of what are known Section 106 agreements willl not remove the developer’s obligation provide critical infrastructure or other contributions to offset the effects of the development and that “there should not be land banking”.

Mediation pilot councils

  • Ashford BC
  • Carlisle City Council
  • Corby BC
  • Durham CC
  • Gloucester City Council
  • Ipswich BC
  • Kirklees Council
  • Leeds City Council
  • Northumberland Council
  • Swindon BC

The move follows lobbying from the housebuilding industry over projects it believes have been delayed because falling house prices mean builders can no longer afford to meet the deals that were struck.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said some 1,400 schemes, each of 10 or more homes, were stalled.

These facilities typically include providing roads, open space and affordable housing as a condition of permission.

The industry has said that projects have stalled because it could afford to build the homes but not to provide the planning gain, leaving it unable to start work unless it can renegotiate the requirements.

Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles is to provide mediators to the pilots, and to other councils that wish to take part, to broker agreements between them and developers to allow projects to proceed.

He is also consulting on whether to allow developers to ask for conditions issued before April 2010 to be renegotiated, rather than having to wait five years as at present.

A Home Builders Federation spokesman said: “Reducing the regulatory requirement for development would improve the viability of some sites.”

But he said that builders did not want a further upheaval in the planning system only months after the new system based on the National Planning Policy Framework came into effect.

Mr Pickles said: “Tackling problems with stalled development is essential to getting builders back on moth-balled sites and building the homes we need. There is huge potential in sites to boost local economies and we simply cannot afford to have them lying idle because of earlier agreements that are no longer viable.”

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