Section 106 Agreements: A quick guide

Section 106 (S106) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority (LPA) to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission. The obligation is termed a Section 106 Agreement. These agreements are a way of delivering or addressing matters that are necessary to make a development acceptable in planning terms. They are increasingly used to support the provision of services and infrastructure, such as highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.

A quick reference guide to Section 106 Agreements

Section 106 Agreements are designed to:

  • Ease the impact of a new development on the local community
  • Compensate the local community for any impact caused by a development - for example if open space is lost, or there is an identified need to improve the highway network.
  • Help shape the new development, for example to ensure that a certain proportion of houses on the development are provided as affordable housing.

Section 106 Agreements are:

  • Often known as Planning Obligations.
  • Legally binding Agreements between developers/landowners and the Local Planning Authority (Or Council)
  • May also occasionally involve other parties.
  • Made using powers contained in Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended)
  • Linked to the grant of Planning Permission for a development.
  • Binding on the land to which the Permission relates and whoever owns it, so they pass from owner to owner if the land is sold.

Section 106 Agreements should always:

  • Be directly related to the proposed development.
  • Be fair and reasonable in scale and kind to a proposed development.
  • Be reasonable in all aspects and make a proposed development acceptable in planning terms.

Other bits worth knowing:

  • Every Section 106 Agreement will be different and reflect the development that it relates to.
  • With the Agreement of the Council, developers may make certain payments or take certain actions- for example, install a play area.
  • If a development doesn't go ahead, the Section 106 Agreement will NOT be implemented.
  • Harlow Council does not currently have a Community Infrastructure Levy.

Viability assessments

Paragraph 173 of the National Planning Policy Framework advises that pursuing sustainable development requires careful attention to viability and costs in plan-making and decision-taking. Plans should be deliverable. Schemes should not be subject to such a scale of obligations and policy burdens that their ability to be developed viably is threatened. 

Harlow Council understands that sustainable development also requires competitive returns for developers. Therefore, in instances where planning obligations threaten the viability of developments, Harlow Council will consider viability assessments as part of the planning process. In considering submitted viability assessments, Harlow Council may seek to have the findings independently assessed (at the expense of the applicant) before the position on viability is accepted.

How to obtain a copy of a Section 106 Agreement

Section 106 Agreements are held with the documents associated with the Planning Application, you can view online using the Harlow Council Planning Register. Alternatively, master copies can be requested by emailing local.landcharges@harlow.gov.uk for a charge of £18.