Publishing viability assessments

Guidance to support local planning authorities in preparing and publishing viability assessment reports.

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

The purpose of viability assessments

Viability assessments are used by plan makers to help decide policy requirements on, among other things, affordable housing, infrastructure and public services for an area. They are intended to help ensure that:

  • property developments in the area can be profitable when making Section 106 agreements
  • the local community is benefitting enough from those agreements

For more information, read GOV.UK’s detailed guidance on viability assessments.

Local authorities’ duty to publish viability assessments

The July 2018 revision of the National Planning Policy Framework states that viability assessments must:

  • be publicly available
  • reflect standardised inputs

This is in keeping with government commitments to open data, transparency and the use, where appropriate, of standards based on the needs of users.

The framework also suggests that plans should be accessible through the use of digital tools to assist public involvement and policy presentation. This follows the government’s digital-by-default approach to services and information in the public sector. Local authorities should therefore publish viability assessments on their website.

Making viability assessments useable and findable

For planners, policymakers and others to benefit from the insights viability assessments can offer, they must be able to easily find and use them.

MHCLG is exploring different ways to make viability assessments more useable and more findable, working for example with Southwark council to develop specifications. The recommendations below are a work-in-progress. This guidance will be updated as necessary with new developments.

More findable viability assessments

Local authorities can make viability assessments easier for users to find by:

  • maintaining summaries of viability assessments in an agreed format
  • hosting a list of these summaries and the individual assessments on their website, with each document hosted at a URL that isn’t used for something else and is redirected if changed

Publishing a list of viability assessments

The lists of viability assessments local authorities should produce will be more effective in directing users to relevant assessments if they follow agreed specifications. MHCLG is looking to develop a standard for both viability assessments and the lists compiling high level information.

A local authority’s list should be in .csv format and include the following headers and information:

  • viability assessment URL

    a weblink to the viability assessment that isn’t used for something else and is redirected if changed

  • reference number

    of the planning application

  • report date
  • postal address

    of the site being developed

  • gross development value
  • benchmark land value
  • total contribution

    in the Section 106 agreement

This list should be published on the local authority’s website and sent to MHCLG’s index of lists at…

A new version of the list should be published at the same persistent URL, but older versions should be accessible.

Validating the list

You can easily check your list of viability assessments to make sure it meets the current specification by using this validator. It will ensure that:

  • the list is a valid CSV
  • the list has the correct columns
  • common errors haven’t been made
  • each viability assessment referenced is available

More useable viability assessments

Viability assessments can contain a considerable amount of information. To help users understand the most important content of individual viability assessments, these must contain an executive summary.

If viability assessments aren’t formatted and labeled properly they can be difficult to use from a practical standpoint. For this reason they must be:

  • in text format (but not a scan or image of text)
  • in an open format such as HTML, PDF-A or ODF (in line with government’s open standards)
  • marked with crown copyright and published under the Open Government Licence version 3

A new version of the viability assessments should be published with a new number at a new URL.