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24/30 Developer contributions


Published: 19 March 2024

Version: 1.0 March 2024

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Research Question(s)

  • What are the health and health inequality impacts of developer contributions?

‘Developer contributions’ is the collective term used mainly to refer to Planning Obligations and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). These are financial or non-financial contributions (e.g. affordable housing) agreed between planning departments of local authorities and developers before the granting of planning permission. These contribute towards infrastructure which supports development but also mitigate the impact of development on the local area. The type of infrastructure can vary depending on the development, and can include investment into local schools or roads, increased capacity of health and social care facilities, new play areas, improved greenspace access, or a proportion of affordable housing in residential developments. Developer contributions can also be used to secure funding for programmes and initiatives such as community developer officers and requirement for health impact assessments. Provision and distribution of these resources could impact health and health inequalities. The devolved administrations have different naming conventions for developer contributions but the process, mechanisms and outcomes for securing contributions are similar across the UK and the research results can be applicable UK-wide.

Developer contributions could be a significant source of funding for infrastructure and other development. In England, the latest Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities research estimated total value of developer contributions in the 2018/2019 financial year was £7 billion (of which £4.7 billion was in the form of affordable housing contributions). However, there is considerable regional disparity in the amount of developer contributions secured. London, the South East and South West typically account for the majority of agreed developer contributions in England. While London accounted for 28% of the national total, the North East accounted for only 3%. In Scotland, latest research commissioned by the Scottish Government found £490 million secured in 2019-20, where the five largest contributing authorities are generally concentrated in the central belt.

Delivery on planning obligations is sometimes inconsistent with what was originally agreed. In the current system developers are able to ‘negotiate down’ what was originally agreed if they can prove that fulfilling their obligations would significantly affect profit margins and make the development financially unviable.

The PHR Programme is aware that the government recently announced plans for a new developer contribution system in England. Under the proposed plans, the Community Infrastructure Levy and section 106 agreements for most sites will be replaced by a new infrastructure levy (IL) set by local authorities. The amount that developers pay will be calculated after the project is complete, rather than before it is granted planning permission. Local authorities can then benefit from the rise in land value over the course of development, which could be substantial for projects spanning several years. A consultation on the new IL is currently in progress. In the proposed plans, the IL will be rolled out through a ‘test and learn’ process spanning several years. It will be introduced in a representative minority of local authorities first, before a nationwide rollout to all English authorities. The timing of levy rollout is likely to mean that applications to this research call will not yet be able to evaluate the health impacts of the new levy. However, the Programme would be interested in applications on this topic when evaluations can feasibly be done. Applications can be made through the Researcher-led application stream

The PHR Programme is interested in research which seeks to evaluate the impact of developer contributions on health and health inequalities. The PHR Programme is predominantly interested in the evaluation of interventions operating at a population level rather than at an individual level and which should address health inequalities and the wider determinants of health. The PHR Programme recognises that interventions are likely to impact different (sub)populations in different ways, and encourages researchers to explore such inequalities of impact in their study design.

Research areas of interest could include, but are not limited to, the impact on health and/or health inequalities of:

  • The geographical distribution of developer contributions spend
  • The relative distribution of developer contributions between the site of development and the allocation of infrastructure
  • The relationship between needs assessment(s) and final distribution of developer contributions
  • The distribution of developer contributions across the different types of infrastructure (e.g. schools, green space)
  • The scale of developer contributions
  • Changes to, or re-negotiations of, developer contributions after granting of planning permission(s)
  • Community and public involvement in decisions around securing, spending and allocation of developer contributions
  • The timing for new infrastructure/mitigations to be delivered (including, for example, a singular large contribution compared with sustained smaller contributions).
  • Local authorities’ choice of developer contribution methods (e.g. CIL vs planning obligations)
  • The use of developer contributions in tackling health inequalities

This funding opportunity concerns the use of developer contributions with regard to the wider determinants of health. This is not about the use of developer contributions in the provision of healthcare facilities.

A range of study designs and outcome measures can be used. Researchers will need to clearly describe and justify their choice of outcomes, and target population group(s), as well as the rationale for their methodological approach. Researchers will need to specify how outcomes will be measured in the short, medium and long term. The PHR Programme typically requires primary outcomes to be direct health outcomes. However, for this commissioned call, the Programme will accept proxy measures for health. Such outcome measures need to be appropriately defined and the link to health must be clearly justified. A wide range of secondary outcomes are welcomed.

Understanding the value of public health interventions - whether the outcomes justify their use of resources - is integral to the PHR Programme, where resources relating to different economic sectors and budgets are potentially relevant. The main outcomes for economic evaluation are expected to include health (including health-related quality of life) and the impact on health inequalities as a minimum, with consideration of broader outcomes welcomed. Different approaches to economic evaluation are encouraged as long as they assess the value and distributive impact of interventions. Applications that do not include an economic component should provide appropriate justification.

Researchers are strongly encouraged to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the community and people with lived experience from the target audience, are meaningfully involved in the design and planning of the intervention and/or as potential, suitably rewarded, members of the research team. Researchers should demonstrate the relevance of their proposed research to decision-makers, commissioners and people with lived experiences and they might do this through involving them as costed/rewarded members of the research team. Researchers are encouraged to explain how they will share their findings with policy makers, public health officers, special interest groups, charities, community audiences and other relevant stakeholders.

Researchers are expected to be aware of other studies in this area, development in practice and ensure their proposed research is complementary. The PHR Programme is aware of a recent call for evidence on this topic from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Planning. If/when a report is published, applicants are expected to be aware of relevant research recommendations that result from the inquiry.

For further information on submitting an application to the PHR Programme, please refer to the Stage 1 guidance notes and PHR supporting information. These can be found by clicking on the relevant commissioned call on the main funding opportunities page. This also includes closing dates and details about how to apply.