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Councils and developers call for planning fees freedom

Nationally-set planning fees mean councils have covered one-third of the cost of all applications since 2012 despite private developers being willing to cover extra costs, the LGA has warned today (4 November).

It claimed local authorities had to pay out £450m in the past three years as a result of recovering the full cost of 467,000 yearly planning applications – because they have no choice over what to charge.

Currently, fees are set on a per hectare basis for outline applications and per dwelling or square metre basis for full applications.

The association is urging Whitehall to allow councils to set their own planning fees as part of the Spending Review, ultimately freeing them from having to divert resources away from services to cover these extra costs.

The call came after a survey by the British Property Federation (BPF) identified two-thirds of its private sector respondents would be willing to pay higher fees to rescue under-resourced planning departments.

Melanie Leech, BPF’s chief executive, said both the public and private sectors are “very clear” that the lack of resources for council planning departments is an issue that continuously hinders essential development.

“The government has talked a lot about how much it wants to get Britain building again, and ahead of the Spending Review we would strongly advise against further national cuts to planning departments if it wants to make this a reality,” she added.  

“Instead, we would like to see government undertake a review looking at how the private sector might be able to make additional payments to planning departments in return for a quality service.”

Supporting analysis by the LGA also showed that the cost of planning applications is growing at a rate of around £150m per year, meaning it is expected to surpass £1bn by the end of the decade.

Cllr Peter Box, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “The Spending Review should allow local authorities to recover the actual cost of applications and end such a needless waste of taxpayers’ money when developers are willing to pay more.

“The number of planning applications being submitted is on the rise but councils are working flat-out to approve almost nine in every 10 planning applications. Locally-set fees would also allow councils to protect residents from hiked feed while developers and housebuilders could pay more to improve the ability of councils to speed up the planning process and maintain high-quality planning decisions.”

Commenting on the request, a DCLG spokesman said: “We have got Britain building again, and have reformed the planning system so it is faster and more efficient.

“We are keen to ensure planning can be delivered in the most cost effective way and we have been listening carefully to representations from the sector about funding to planning departments.”


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