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Have your say on local planning fees

by on December 7, 2010

First I’d like to apologise for the lack of content recently. The problem is that in common with many of our colleagues we’re in a period of limbo at the moment while we wait to hear our fate in the Comprehensive Spending Review. We’ve submitted a business case for the next four years and we wait with bated breath.

Meanwhile, we are still beavering away trying to encourage as much online submission as possible and trying to play our part in communicating the ever-changing planning landscape.

On that topic, you may be aware that DCLG is currently consulting on the subject of localisation of planning application fees.

I would like to encourage you to make your views known on the topic. For example, if you submit planning applications to more than one local authority you might like to consider the impact of differentiated fees on the usability of the electronic system.

Meanwhile, if you’re a local planning authority, I’d like to understand how you are planning to operate with regard to electronic applications and in particular our fee calculator.

Feel free to contact me personally if you’re nervous of an open response.

Time is running out so get your twopenneth in quick.

  1. 7 December 2010

    I am concerned that there is to be yet more expense borne by anyone.

    Surely now is the time to cut costs all round.

    The new Localism Bill has the idea of giving people the power to give themselves planning permission by having local neighbourhood policies, in accordance with national policies, thereby cutting out the need to have expensive planning applications going to the LPAs.

    This in turn could mean that local parish and town councils will become the planning authority and the current local planning authorities could become the advisers for BUILDING CONTROL.

    It seems a scandalous waste of money to keep telling the owners of listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas that they must do such and such, when the materials they have to use could cost an arm and a leg, far more than alternative materials.

    We need to ask ourselves a serious question as to whether or not we should have a proper national grid of listed buildings and give an “elastic clause” to owners of listed buildings so that they do not find themselves falling foul of the draconian listed building consent legislation which can end up with people being prosecuted for demolishing or altering a greenhouse or a curtilage wall. Plainly ridiculous.

  2. Jerry Kent permalink

    As each planning authority has an effective monopoly, it appears to be perverse to vary fees. Poor authorities could use pricing high as a means of discouraging applications for development, while some could cut corners to keep within budgets. I am sure there are many other dangers out there.

  3. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    In the short term the cost of mapping out what the service costs for the next six months to a level that will make the fees change transparent and acceptable when staff are already going to cut costs will be ‘challenging’!
    And cutting corners has to be what we do to make sure our vastly reduced budgets at least keep the lights on!
    Its about only doing what we are required to do and charging or stopping doing anything else. The point is why should the local taxpayer subsidise the costs of planning professionals and solicitors? Of course there are so few staff in Planning by 2011/12 even that basic level will be difficult to provide, and as the Best Value and Aidit Commission gatekeepers are gone, there is no pressure to up the game.
    However as LPA’s are exploring partnership working the issue of fees across boundaries are going to create problems. Shared back office may be more cost effective, but if if that means the LPA has to set fees lower, is that a disincentive to be more efficient? Paymenmts online cost far less than processing a chegue ( METRICS show £5.60 as oposed to £0.23 for online). But Planning are going to have to pay card issuers for the online payment and that comes out of the fees budget, wheras the cost of the cheque is ‘hidden’ in back office infrastructure and so is not coning out of the revenue stream so obviously!
    Poor Authorities or Rich Authorities are not the issue. I see it being clever authorities or not so clever authorities, and ‘bend it like Beckham’ on rules. And the impact on the Customer is going to be harsh as the service provided is directly proportianate to the budgets available. So a low fee may look a good deal, until you see a planning service with vast waiting lists and a poor built environment.

  4. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    And if the planning service in your local planning depatment has lost staff to meet the budget reductions. If it has to continue to charge existing planning fees that at most only recover two thirds of the cost of simply processing an application.
    Then expect growing issues of non-delivery of this service.
    The industry will of course be unhappy at seeing fees potentially rise, and pressure may very well mean such increases are put off beyond 2012.
    But the industry must realise that its a false economy for them. This simply starves the planning service of income. And that means even more planners are cut. This will happen at a time when once the service has been cut (TAKES 90 DAYS) the service, post increased fees in 2011/12 will take far longer to recruit new staff (TAKES 12 MONTHS TO GAIN ‘THE KNOWLEDGE’).
    You may very well arrive at your local planning officve with a shiney new scheme that will regenerate and lift the area from decline. But that office may be shut and very few planners will be on hand to do more than sigh and remember fondly the days of BVPI 157 and exceeding targets through efficiencies.
    Pendleton and the PDG rewarded efficiency with more investment. Today the cost of the service is simple, revenue as applied to cost of the service. If that is not in balance (We cannot of course make a profit as that would be seen as bad practice) then cuts follow to spare the tax payer and the rest of the Council.
    The world simply notes the cost of employing planning staff and notes the planning fees income do not balance.
    Any gaps can only be met by cutting those staff and the service. To think otherwise ignores the current destruction of the 10 years worth of social capital that the built envoironment represents and that planning is meant to secure.
    I do not complain about this. Its where we are, I simply want the industry to understand the effect of the stance they have.

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