parliament

02 Mar 23

The government released a consultation paper yesterday outlining its proposal to increase fees to help fund overstretched planning departments.   You can make your views to government here

From summer this year the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities wants to increase planning fees by 35% for major applications and 25% for all other applications, through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. 

This means for a ‘major’ planning application – of 10 or more homes or a site of 0.5 hectares or more – the fee will go up from £462 for every property to £624. 

It proposes to have additional fees for bespoke or ‘fast track’ services and aims to review the fee levels within three years of implementation. See box below for more proposals in the consultation. 

The document, released yesterday, noted the government had “heard consistent feedback from all sectors that the core planning application service is not consistently performing at the level it should and one of the root causes is, for many local planning authorities, an absence of adequate resources and capability”. 

Government figures last year showed planning permissions had dropped to their lowest level for a decade amid growing concern for the system. 

The Royal Town Planning Institute, Local Government Association and the British Property Federation are among the organisations that have called for an increase in funding for planning authorities, the consultation pointed out. In January last year, the House of Lords urged the government to increase planning fees.

Sam Stafford, the Home Builders Federation’s planning director, told Housing Today in response to the consultation: “[This] is an opportunity to think about self-sustaining funding for planning teams.”

But he added: “The application itself is only one part of the process.  Local planning authorities have responsibilities beyond applications such as local plan-making that do not generate fees, but are equally important.”

He particularly welcomed the plan to make an annual inflation-related adjustment to planning fees [see below].

But not all bodies believe an increase in fees will be enough. Housing Today last year revealed the crisis in planning departments. 

At the time, David Renard, housing spokesperson Local Government Authority, said: “A proposed increase in planning fees will help to build capacity, but this increase on its own will not be enough to comprehensively address the issue of resourcing in the planning sector; and government can go further by allowing councils to set planning fees locally.”

The consultation document said: “The government considers that an increase at this level strikes the right balance between ensuring that costs are reasonable, with larger developers paying more than smaller businesses or householders, whilst providing additional fee income for local planning authorities to support the delivery of the planning application service.” 

The consultation closes on 25 April.

The consultation also asks views on: 

  • making an annual inflation-related adjustment to planning fees
  • ring-fencing additional fees income
  • doubling fees for retrospective applications
  • removing the ‘free-go’ for repeat applications
  • introducing a prior approval fee for the permitted development right allowing the Crown to develop sites within the perimeter of a closed defence site
  • building planning capacity and capability within local authorities, including challenges in recruitment and retention, and how these can be addressed
  • reducing the Planning Guarantee from 26 weeks to 16 weeks for non-major applications
  • improving the quality of the local authority planning service by monitoring more performance measures.

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