Planning gain is a term familiar to many professionals working in property development. However, it is also a misleading and ill defined term. Since 1991 the government discouraged its use and preferred the term 'planning obligations'. This chapter will seek to define the planning gain and obligations system and will consider the subject in two sections dealing with the legal and philosophical context of the subject.
The study of planning gain/planning obligations exposes the tension that exists between the town planning system and the property development industry. At its most fundamental it involves examination of who should pay for the wider environmental impact of a development proposal, the developer or the local authority. This chapter will examine the workings of the system, dealing separately with the legal or procedural rules that guide the practical implementation of planning obligations, and the broader, more philosophical, debate as to whether such obligations represent a form of development tax or a legitimate development cost. A series of case studies will focus on what is considered to constitute good and bad practice. In 1999-2000 the government-appointed Urban Task Force (Urban Task Force 1999) and subsequent Urban White Paper (DETR 2000b) both countenanced a review of the planning obligation system. The review, conducted between 2000 and 2002, culminated in the government issuing a consultation paper that advocated the introduction of 'tariffs' in place of obligations (DETR 2001a). Future reforms to the system will also be considered.
The many misconceptions surrounding this subject are in part explained by the lack of a single and widely used definition and the use of a variety of titles relating to the practice of planning gain. Research (Healey et al. 1993) discovered the use of 12 terms to describe the same function. 1 The term 'planning gain' provides a convenient umbrella under which benefits in either cash or kind are offered to a local planning authority (LPA) by a developer, following the grant of planning permission and controlled by an agreement between the local planning authority and landowner or by planning condition, This implies a situation in which the local planning authority benefits from something for nothing, that is, by simply granting planning permission the developer will provide 'sweeteners' or 'goodies' (Case Study 6.1). Such a view would be an unsatisfactory start to the topic. At this stage