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Section 106 & Public Art: A 2024 Guide

In the realm of urban development and public spaces, how can Section 106 and public art balance community well-being while preserving the unique character of local areas?

Learning about Section 106 and its connection to public art unveils a complex but crucial aspect of development planning. For some, it can be confusing legislation, yet it applies to many sectors, ranging from residential developments to luxury hotel resorts. In response to this, Artelier is a leading public art advisory service experienced in providing expert-led art strategies compliant with local authorities under Section 106.

In this free, comprehensive guide, learn in five minutes the fundamentals of Section 106 and why public art is an excellent approach to address it.


A large circular public art structure, with a flat screen situated on a plinth/stilts in a park setting. The circular surface is reflective, showing the sky above.
© Duncan Cumming, Anish Kapoor

1. What is Section 106 and why does it exist?


A Section 106 agreement, also called a planning obligation, is a legal deal between a developer and a local planning authority. In the UK, it is created under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The goal of Section 106 is to lessen the impact of a development and make it acceptable in planning terms. For example, the introduction of new developments can create additional demands on existing infrastructures and resources within a local area, such as increased traffic or population volume. However, it can also address pre-existing issues in the area, like a shortage of affordable housing, and create avenues for opportunities, such as conducting archaeological studies or providing spaces for public art back into the community.

In simple terms, Section 106 is a binding contract that helps authorities get benefits for the community and reduce the negative effects of a development, ensuring it aligns with overall planning goals and helps the local area.

Key Features of Section 106

  • Consequences: Addressing negative consequences of property development

  • Timing: Coordinating the timing and phasing of the property development

  • Housing: Ensuring affordable housing

  • Infrastructure: Contributing to local infrastructure improvements i.e. motorways

  • Facilities: Providing community facilities in public areas i.e town centres or parks

  • Well Being: Improving communal spaces for community well-being

  • Environment:Addressing environmental concerns such as sustainability or conservation

A graphic public art abstract sculpture, in black, red and white called 'Monument Au Fantome' by Jean Dubuffet
© Jean Dubuffet

2. Why is Public Art a good option to meet Section 106 requirements?

Public art has always been a desirable option by the council for major development projects, including retirement and residential homes, retail spaces, and employment developments. The council acknowledges that integrating public art into new developments significantly enhances the cultural well-being of communities and improves the overall quality of the environment.

Public art promotes quality and inclusive design, as well as catering to community needs through enhancing health, social, and cultural well-being. Public art is recognised as a valuable contributor to creating distinctive and culturally rich places.

Here are some persuasive arguments promoting public art as the best option for Section 106:

white, red and blue mural by VHILS curved round a building in Lisboa, in a graffiti style. Artwork showcases figure heads, with geometric styles at top and bottom of the circular exterior wall face.
© Photo Silvia Lopes, artwork by VHILS

Public Art encourages high-quality design and environmental standards

Public art is vital for creating high-quality and sustainable environments. Good design enhances well-being and prosperity, responding to the practical and creative needs of a place.

Large public artwork of a cherry ontop of a huge spoon in a park setting, pop-art/kitsch style.
© Photo Raymond Boyd

Public Art improves accessibility and legibility

Public art helps maintain local distinctiveness in the face of new developments, emphasising culture, heritage, and biodiversity. Visual references enhance community pride, promote exploration, and support inward investment.

horse head bronze sculpture located in the middle of a london park in the summer featuring pigeons, a child and three london red buses
© Photo Maggie Jones

Public Art enhances public open space and recreational facilities

Public art enhances communal spaces, supporting diverse recreational facilities for arts, culture, sports, healthy lifestyles, and community engagement, benefiting both communities and individual well-being.

Artwork by Chris Wood in dichronic glass, light refracts through the pointed block creating colours of pink, green and blue, whilst children run around it playing 'It'.
© Photo Scottsdale Public Art

Public Art raises the profile of town and village centres

Public art supports the vitality and regeneration of town and village centres, making them pleasant places for shopping, services, culture, and entertainment. It attracts more visitors, contributing to sustainable growth and regeneration.

An artist works on his mural, graffiti spraying a pink line over a blue mural on an exterior public art façade, whilst sitting on scaffolding.
© Paul Green

Public Art empowers local people and communities

Public art is a crucial tool for building successful and sustainable communities. This strategy emphasises community involvement in shaping the environment, facing issues, facilitating positive change, and promoting inclusivity.

the artist vhil's artworks displayed in an outdoor light exhibition with a sunset backdrop of the city
© Vhils

Public Art celebrates heritage, biodiversity, and culture

Public art plays a vital role in celebrating the cultural identity of a place. It creates opportunities to explore local culture, commission artworks that reflect the community's identity, and make public spaces distinctive, memorable, and interesting.

A bronze metal spherical sculpture reflecting the city of Dublin, whilst passerby's walk alongside it.
© Photo William Murphy, Arnaldo Pomodoro

3. How long does a Section 106 agreement last?

Section 106 agreements in the UK are legally binding and apply to the land and its development rather than specific individuals or companies. The duration of these obligations varies, often tied to the public art development's lifespan or the time needed to deliver agreed-upon benefits. Reviewing the agreement terms is crucial, as local planning authorities collaborate with developers to ensure timely delivery of benefits. Changes require negotiation and agreement between involved parties.

Below are three types of obligations organised under Section 106 legislation:

A Picasso sculpture redesigned in metal to be fragmented and brutalist outside a corporate building.
© Photo Tom Grotta

Time-Linked Obligations:

Developers must complete defined infrastructure improvements within a set period after finishing the development.

Event-Linked Obligations:

Developers may need to financially contribute to education facilities once a specific number of residential units are occupied

Perpetual Obligations:

Develops must contribute to maintaining and managing facilities, lasting for the entire life of the development.

Where to find Section 106 agreements

To locate Section 106 agreements, individuals typically need to explore the public records linked to a specific planning application or development. These can be found via: local planning authority offices, online planning portals, public & planning registers, land registries or submitted via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Keep in mind that certain details, such as financial contributions, may be redacted to protect commercial interests.

Large black and white tree laid down on the floor painted in a black pattern, within a public art site.
© Stuart Ian Frost

4. How long does it take to get a Section 106 agreement?

The process of getting a Section 106 agreement involves several steps with their own timeframes. The total duration from agreeing and signing the draft agreement to receiving confirmation can vary depending on the complexity of the case, but it involves several weeks and months, as indicated by the different steps below:

Patterned land art, black and white detailed polka dot style in rectangular shapes.
© Stuart Ian Frost

Step 1: Agreeing and Signing the Draft

Send the draft agreement to the applicant or their solicitor within 14 days.

Step 2: Council's Legal Team

Prepare and send the formal draft within 10 days for simple cases or 28 days for complex ones. Share a copy with the applicant or their solicitor.

Step 3: Sealing the Legal Agreement

Within 2 days of a resolution to grant permission.

Close up shot of a tree, black and white holes in the tree.
© Stuart Ian Frost

Step 4: Planning Case Officer

Within 13 weeks for major applications or 8 weeks for others, report the planning application to the committee or draft a decision based on the council's delegation scheme.

Step 5: Issue Decision Notice

Within 3 days of confirmation that the legal (Section 106) agreement has been completed.

Step 6: Confirmation Letter

Within 14 days of confirming compliance with the legal agreement's requirements by the applicant and relevant council departments.

children running between artwork installation by danny lane in paddington, london, feature four glass artwork sculptures with bronze bases
© Credit to Danny Lane

5. What are the disadvantages of Section 106?

Section 106 has created mixed opinions, with its impact varying depending on stakeholders.

Section 106 & Complicated Transactions

For example, Section 106 agreements can complicate land transactions, causing concerns for buyers and lenders due to broad liabilities. The obligations, binding for future owners, can in some instances restrict land use. As a result, local authorities' justifications in the Section 106 agreement may unintentionally hinder buyers, increasing stakeholders' worries about the new infrastructure levy and its impact on housing delivery, rates, and thresholds.

Section 106 to be Discontinued in 2024

In 2023, the government proposed replacing Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) with the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill. This governmental reform aims to streamline development contributions by charging based on property value. While it seeks to avoid prolonged Section 106 negotiations and includes a 'neighbourhood share' for community priorities, developers are nevertheless expressing concerns about potential drawbacks. As of present, nothing has been agreed so far.

Jae hyolee's wooden installation displayed in northern italy in outdoor art sculpture, a contemporary art sculpture in a semi circular arched shape made of wood with background of mountains
© Photo Public Delivery

6. How to Develop a Public Art Strategy under Section 106

With images provided from a featured project commissioned by Artelier: a public art mural by Ian Kirkpatrick for residential development in Southwark, London. See project here.

architectural render provided by HG construction for glengall passage in southwark, london
An Architectural Render of the Residential Property © HG Construction

a. Create a Multidisciplinary Team for Holistic Project Insight

Build a diverse team for comprehensive project insight. A qualified art consultant like Artelier can assemble a panel with expertise in various sectors, including art curation, architecture, design, and project management. To ensure a holistic perspective, the team may also feature public art officers, local residents, or academics with qualifications in art history or conservation.

example conservation area map layout analysis given from southwark government to analyse glengall road in southwark, london
© The Conservation Area Appraisal via

b. Plan Strategically towards a Community-Engaged Public Art Project

Create a comprehensive plan that explores community involvement, site analysis, selecting the best location. This must factor in factors like climate, neighbouring buildings, the historical significance of the site. This plan forms the basis for the next steps in the public art project.

Example render submitted by Ian Kirkpatrick for his glengall road residential development submission in 2021, featuring an artwork mural display in the corridor of the building
© Example of Open Call Submission by Ian Kirkpatrick

c. Organise an Open Call to Artists

Create an open call for artists, establishing a transparent procedure for shortlisting and selecting the most suitable artist for the project. This process ensures a fair and competitive selection of artists for the best result that complies with Section 106. Art advisors like Artelier will use their curatorial expertise to shortlist the best qualified artists to present to the client.

example of ian kirkpatricks colour public art murals in public in the uk, involving bright colours and bold motifs
© Example of Ian Kirkpatrick's Artwork

d. Project Management for Commission and Installation Success

Manage the project during the commission and installation stages. This includes supervising the implementation of the artwork strategy, making sure it stays on schedule, within budget, and meets quality standards. The art consultant plays a crucial role in coordinating these elements for a successful project finish.

artwork made by giles miller in a spherical abstract form made of coins hanging over a river in a british forest
© Credit to Giles Miller Studio

Do you have a project that requires Public Art?

As public and landscape art consultants, Artelier has specialist expertise in developing art strategies and commissioning bespoke installations and sculptures in compliance with Section 106. Our projects have spanned varied public realm spaces, including: mixed use developments, corporate contexts, public parks, sculpture gardens, residential developments, landscapes and temporary installations.

To learn more about our turn-key art consultancy services and our process for commissioning artworks, visit our Public Art page here.


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