Saturday, 28 June 2014

'Planning gain' part two - S106 cash from developers - is it still 'bribery' by a different name?

Earlier in the year, the temptations of S106 cash [or the proposed new levy] were considered:
Futures Forum: 'Planning gain' - the replacement for S106 cash from developers - the Community Infrastructure Levy - but is it still 'bribery' by a different name?

In a debate covered by the East Devon Alliance, this question raises its ugly head once more:


27 June 2014
Recent debate in Westminster Hall on town centres and supermarkets differing views of a constituency MP and the Planning Minister:
John Pugh Lib Dem Southport (where Sainsbury’s wants to build an out of town supermarket by demolishing one of their Homebase stores but is refusing to consider an in-town site formerly occupied by a Morrisons store):
… When applying for … permission, supermarkets go armed with persuasive, expert consultants, planners and researchers and can offer a view of the whole retail environment that the council hearing the application cannot really judge for itself, because planning departments are, by and large, severely under resourced. The lack of resources is due to local authority cuts, but planning departments have never been particularly well resourced and are often short of independent data, which costs money. They are also unable to face up to the costs of refusal, leading to an expensive appeal process. Planning departments across the land are hurrying to get housing figures in place, but they are not doing much work, number-crunching or thinking about the retail environments that they often strive to protect.
… Ultimately, planning departments are also vulnerable to what I was going to call “bribery”, although I do not want to use that word because individual bribery is not involved. However, a supermarket wanting to get its way, whatever the effect on the town centre, will normally present its case by suggesting that, due to some attractive agreement under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, something that the council wants, such as a traffic development, can be delivered as part and parcel of a new development. On one side is the threat of an expensive appeal and on the other is the bribe that granting permission may lead to some benefit that the council may not be able to accommodate through its own resources. That is generally what the monitoring of such developments shows..
… The onus is on local town planners and councils to have a positive view of where their town is going, which aligns with what is commercially viable. … To some extent, the problem for councils at the moment is that they are concerned—and the Minister is pleased about this—about finding forward-looking plans apropos housing, but are sometimes leaving retail and the commercial community to sort themselves out. They will not do so to everybody’s satisfaction.
Response by Nick Boles, Planning Minister
… I am firmly of the view that supermarkets have been a powerful force for social and economic good in this country for the past 50 years. I am firmly of the view that people on modest incomes around the country, in his constituency of Southport and in mine of Grantham and Stamford, have the opportunity to buy a range of quality food and other items that were unaffordable or unavailable to all but the very rich when I was growing up, and probably when my hon. Friend was growing up.
Nick Boles says supermarkets make it easier for poor people to buy quality goods | East Devon Alliance
House of Commons Hansard Debates for 24 Jun 2014 (pt 0002)

The debate also covered the issues of retail parks and the high street:
Out of Town Supermarkets: 24 Jun 2014: Westminster Hall debates - TheyWorkForYou

See also:
Futures Forum: The changing face of the high street ... the promise of the big box store
Futures Forum: The changing face of the high street ... the death of the shopping mall

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