In order to properly reduce the effects of its development, a supermarket should offer (and the Council should require) a list of planning contributions as part of what is known as a ‘Section 106 agreement’. This could include providing or offering money towards, for example, improving links to the town centre, pedestrian crossings and general road safety measures or improved bus services.
There are three tests that a planning contribution must pass to make it acceptable. It must be:
• related to the proposed development;
• necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms; and
• fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development.
These tests were designed to prevent local Councils seeking contributions towards items which a new development had no impact on. So money towards improving the local hospital or a new swimming pool are not permissible.
These requirements used to be simply guidance that a local Council could choose to follow or, largely ignore. Often this resulted in accusations of big supermarkets ‘buying’ a planning permission by offering to pay for something that wouldn’t otherwise get done. However, these tests are now in law and are being firmly enforced.
So look out for the rumours (which are rarely true) that a new supermarket will pay for something that a town wants. They cannot do this. Equally, push the local Council hard to ensure that any supermarket proposal properly pays the appropriate level of contribution. Supermarkets are notorious for paying very little in the way of planning contributions. Whilst an application is being considered, the Section 106 will be being negotiated between the local Council and the supermarket. Make sure full details are provided to you and if you think that it is not providing enough, then add this to your objections along with your views on what you think the supermarket should contribute towards if it is granted permission.