LGA: planning fee caps cost councils £450m

4 Nov 15

Councils have been forced to spend £450m covering the cost of planning applications in the last three years because of government caps on the fees they can charge, the Local Government Association said today.

Latest LGA figures show nationally set planning fees prevent councils from being able to recover the full cost of processing the 467,000 planning applications submitted on average each year.

Overall, councils have had to meet around a third of the costs of applications since the current caps came into force in 2012, diverting resources away from other services.

Under the current regime, fees are set on a per hectare basis for outline applications, as well as on a per dwelling or square metreage basis for full applications.

The LGA called on chancellor George Osborne to use the Spending Review to empower councils to set their own fees. This comes after a British Property Federation survey found around two-thirds of private sector members would be willing to pay increased fees to support an effective planning service.

LGA housing spokesman Peter Box said it was “unacceptable for communities to keep being forced to spend hundreds of millions each year to cover a third of the cost of all planning applications”.

He added: “Government should recognise the huge pressure this is placing on already stretched planning departments that are crucial to building the homes and roads that local communities need but which have seen 46% reductions in funding over the past five years.

“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.

“Locally set fees would also allow councils to protect residents from hiked fees 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.”

British Property Federation chief executive Melanie Leech said that both the public and private sectors were clear that the lack of resources for local authority planning departments was hindering 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.”

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