Factoring in Planning Agreements

October 12, 2017

Planning Agreements have been around for many years in Northern Ireland previously in the form of Article 40 Agreements and now Section 76 Agreements (under the Planning Act (NI) 2011) however they are increasingly being required by some local planning authorities. Between April 2015 and May 2017 Belfast City Council received £1,292,067.00 in contributions secured under Planning Agreements.

Whether a Planning Agreement in practice will be required largely depends on the Council area in which your development is located.

  • Between April 2015 and May 2017 the following Planning Agreements were completed:
    • Belfast City Council completed 21;
    • Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council completed 4;
    • Derry City & Strabane District Council completed 3.
  • The value and type of contributions required also varies across Council areas. The largest monetary contribution required under a single Planning Agreement by Belfast City Council was £344,000 and the smallest was £16,000 in that period. Infrastructure works and land transfers are also being required.
  • The length of time it takes to negotiate a Planning Agreement can vary from a few weeks to over a year.

We are frequently approached by developers who have been informed by a council, after their planning application has been approved, that a Planning Agreement is required and therefore their decision notice will not be issued until the Planning Agreement has completed.

Frequently no heads of terms have been agreed with a council and this means that the terms of the Agreement, the contribution required and trigger dates for works to be carried out and/or payment will need to be negotiated. The contribution required and relevant trigger dates could have serious implications for the viability of a development and need to be carefully considered.  A simple Planning Agreement can be negotiated in a matter of days however more complex Agreements can take months to complete and in the meantime, as the planning permission cannot issue, the developer is unable to commence development.

It is therefore advisable to consider the likelihood of a Planning Agreement being required at the outset. If one is likely to be required, the Planning Agreement can be negotiated whilst the planning application is being processed.   This would mean that when the decision is made to grant your planning permission you will be in a position to also complete the Planning Agreement and your decision notice could be issued the next day.

Please note that the content of this article is for information purposes only and advice should be sought from a professional adviser. Please contact our Planning and Environmental Team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.

Kate McCusker, Associate Solicitor, Planning and Environmental Team, Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Solicitors.