UCL Faculty of Laws


Hybrid | Contracting in the public interest?

14 December 2023, 6:00 pm–7:00 pm

Image of colourful apartment doors

This lecture will be delivered by Dr Edward Mitchell, as part of the Current Legal Problems Lecture Series 2023-24

Event Information

Open to



UCL Laws

Contracting in the public interest? Re-examining the role of contract in contemporary town planning processes

Speaker: Dr Edward Mitchell (University of Essex)

Chair: Professor Michele Raco (UCL - The Barlett)

About the lecture

This paper addresses the role of contract in contemporary town planning processes. The paper’s specific focus is on the use, by local planning authorities in England, of contract regimes to secure the delivery of ‘planning obligations’ requiring landowners and developers to provide public facilities and services as part of their property development activities. The starting premise for this paper is that contract has the potential to work in town planning practice to offer administrative efficiency and secure binding commitments from landowners and developers, but that, while contract mechanisms often contribute to the successful performance of planning obligations, there are significant gaps in the existing practice. This paper thus goes inside these contract regimes to think through the possibilities that they enable and the obstacles that they create. The paper does this through case studies of contract regimes created for two recent property development projects. These case studies allow me to show that the contract mechanisms operating in this area often consist of routine, administrative clauses that create an intricate and highly prescriptive framework of rights, responsibilities, duties and powers. However, I also argue that the detail, complexity and apparent rigidity of these contracts belies the one-sided flexibility and the haphazardness of these regimes. Some of the problems with these contract regimes reflect broader concerns about the appropriateness of the use of contract to secure the delivery of vital public services. The paper argues, therefore, that we still need to do more to think through the role contract regimes play in public life. 

Watch the video directly on our YouTube Channel or view it below

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/q-32G5QK3Mc

About the speaker

Edward Mitchell is a Lecturer in the Law School at the University of Essex. His recent research includes empirical examinations of the contractual arrangements between local authorities and private sector property developers that often underpin town planning processes and the compulsory purchase and redistribution of private land to enable urban development. His other recent work has examined financial viability modelling and legal processes in the context of local authority decision-making related to property development on large urban sites. Edward is also interested in researching innovative practices in legal education and has recently published work looking at the use of technology enhanced learning methods to foster greater motivation and enjoyment amongst undergraduate law students.

About Current Legal Problems

The Current Legal Problems (CLP) lecture series and annual volume was established over fifty five years ago at the Faculty of Laws, University College London and is recognised as a major reference point for legal scholarship.

Book your place

You can attend this event in-person at UCL Faculty of Laws (Bentham House, 4-8 Endsleigh Gardens, London WC1H 0EG) or alternatively you can join via a live stream.

Please make sure you choose the correct ticket when booking your place.

Book your place

Photo by Pierre Blaché from Pixabay

Other events in this series