New planning obligation data standard will help councils test viability, says expert

The new government requirement for planning authorities to collect data about developer contributions in a standard format will help councils to test developers' viability claims at an earlier stage in the process, according to a senior figure at the government-backed body charged with incubating businesses aiming to improve city life.

Future Cities Catapult's Euan Mills speaking at the event
Future Cities Catapult's Euan Mills speaking at the event

In its March updates to national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG), the government said that councils should produce their planning obligations in an "open format data", including setting out what choices they have made about how to use developer contributions.

The updated PPG section on planning obligations says that summary data from each section 106 agreement should be collected to a standard format.

Speaking at yesterday's National Planning Summit in London, Future Cities Catapult urban futures team lead Euan Mills said the new requirement was "quite a big thing".

He said: "All the information within the section 106 [planning obligation agreement] can be useful intelligence to better understand viability assessments, and screen them quicker."

Until now, it has been unusual for local authorities to collect their own viability data, he said. But the new requirement would, for example, enable authorities to spot discrepancies between different applicants' estimates of scheme sales values earlier in the process than they can now, he added.

Speaking in the same session, a director of the online engagement programme Commonplace urged planning authorities to prioritise online dissemination of their plans.

"Digital first is absolutely vital," he said. "More people exponentially will engage with your plans online than will come to public meetings or read the plan in the library."

The National Planning Summit was organised by Planning.

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