Can I renegotiate a s106 agreement if the viability on my site has changed as a result of the current climate?
The Government acknowledges that there may need to be some flexibility to enable developers to meet any existing s106 obligations, in particular financial contributions, during the current health crisis and in recent guidance it encourages Councils “to consider whether it would be appropriate to allow the developer to defer delivery”. However, the Government considers that the existing arrangements for varying a section 106 agreement by way of a deed are sufficient and will not be legislating for any additional temporary mechanisms.
In the absence of any formal variation, the Government does however advise Councils to take a “pragmatic and proportionate approach” to enforcement of planning obligations at the current time.
The Government’s advice does not refer to concerns over the quantum of any planning obligations but is concerned only with the timing for delivery. However, the viability behind many sites is likely to change as a result of temporary site closures, or the availability of construction materials and labour once sites can re-open. Where there is already a s106 agreement in place, a developer may wish to renegotiate their position on the basis that certain planning obligations are no longer affordable.
Where a s106 agreement was entered into longer than 5 years ago, an application can be made to the Council to formally vary a planning obligation that is now “without purpose”. Any refusals can be appealed to the Secretary of State.
Where a s106 agreement was entered into within the last 5 years, the agreement can only be modified with the agreement of the Council. The ability to renegotiate a s106 agreement will therefore come down to the willingness of the Council to accept the revised viability position. Where Councils are willing to consider this, a robust viability assessment agreed with the Council is likely to be needed.