From brown envelopes to community benefits: the co-option of planning gain agreements under deepening neoliberalism

Linda Fox-Rogers, Enda Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The provision of physical and social infrastructure in the form of roads, green spaces and community facilities has traditionally been provided for by the state through the general taxation system. However, as the state has been transformed along more neoliberal lines, the private sector is increasingly relied upon to deliver public goods and services. Planning gain agreements have flourished within this context by offering another vehicle through which local facilities are privately funded. Whilst these agreements reflect the broader dynamics of neoliberalism, they are commonly viewed as a tool which can be employed to challenge these very dynamics by empowering local communities to secure more just planning outcomes. This paper counters such claims. Based on evidence gathered from 80 interviews with planners, councillors, developers and community groups in Ireland, the paper demonstrates how planning gain agreements have been strategically redeployed by the holders of political and economic power to serve their own ends. In seeking to understand why and how this has occurred, specific consideration is given to the changing power dynamics between the state and private capital under neoliberalism. The paper highlights how institutional arrangements have enabled developers to infiltrate the political sphere in more subtle and implicit ways than ever before. We conclude by arguing that planning gain must be understood as a mechanism which has been manipulated in ways which essentially work to preserve and enhance, rather than redress, existing power imbalances in the planning system by facilitating large scale transfers of wealth upwards in society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages9
Early online date27 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

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