Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Is There a Relationship between Planning Culture and the Value of Planning Gain? Evidence from England

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Is There a Relationship between Planning Culture and the Value of Planning Gain? Evidence from England

Article excerpt

Introduction

The idea that developers should make some form of compensation for the 'unearned' uplift in land values attributable to the award of planning consent is common to many planning systems around the world (Monk and Crook, 2016). However, determining how this uplift in land values should be priced and, correspondingly, what method is best to exact this value varies significantly. In some societies, such as the People's Republic of China, auctions represent the preferred method of establishing a value for land upon which the right to develop has been granted (Cai et al., 2013). Elsewhere, levies or land taxes are employed (Franzsen, 2009), such as non-negotiable developer obligations in Spain (Gozalvo Zamorano and Muñoz Gielen, 2017), whilst in other settings developer contributions are determined by negotiation on a caseby-case basis, such as in Turkey (Turk, 2018) and Ireland (Fox-Rogers and Murphy, 2015). Occasionally a hybrid or parallel system prevails, such as in England, where local planning authorities have the option to employ either or both a Community Infrastructure Levy (usually expressed as ?X per square metre of development) and a negotiated approach through the Section 106 process (Crook, 2016).

Variation within counties also occurs, enabled by the devolution of power to local government to assess planning applications and capture public value through development. There is limited evidence regarding the reason for intra-national variations in planning obligations, including whether it is explained by market conditions or local planning cultures (Dunning et al., 2016). Yet knowing why there is variation within a country is surely significant for any call to amend the system of land value capture. Responding to this evidence gap and the uncertainty of explaining development outcomes from simple economic indicators, there is now increasing recognition that variations in the behavioural and heuristic norms that define context-specific planning practice are fundamental to explaining variations in planning and development outcomes, not least in shaping market behaviours and outcomes (Adams and Watkins, 2014). For many researchers, considering the behavioural aspects of planning has refreshed long-standing interests in 'planning cultures' (Knieling and Othengrafen, 2009; Sanyal, 2005). The relationship between planning cultures and planning gain is, however, under-researched.

In this article, we seek to consider variations within a single country and explore the roles of culture and behaviour in determining the value of developer contributions. England is an interesting case study to examine the relationship between planning culture and planning-gain value because of the widely varying economic conditions in different urban and rural contexts across the country and because the discretionary nature encourages localised and relational development decisions (Campbell et al., 2000) within a flexible development-led system (Gielen and Tasan-Kok, 2010). In taking England as our focus, we will use the language that has grown up in this context to describe developer contribution practices: 'planning agreements' describe the contractual arrangement between developer and local planning authority that set out 'planning obligations', which are the specific set of contributions the developer must make in order for their proposal to be acceptable to the local planning authority.

Whilst England has a planning system with a singular national framework for planning laws and policy guidance, top-down policy from central government does not automatically translate into practice within local planning systems (Campbell and Henneberry, 2005). The discretionary nature of the planning system in England means that local planning authorities have significant capacity to 'interpret', resist or embrace central government policy (Claydon, 1998; Booth, 2007). We see planning cultures as a useful descriptor of variations in local planning practice and development and obligation outcomes. …

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