Council planners seem out of touch with reality

One reader is not surprised that council planners support pre-application charging

It is without apparent irony that the recent survey of local authority planners and consultants (Planning, 4 November, p6) reports that 60 per cent of local authority planners agree that pre-application charges are good value for money.

Rarely will anyone's answer - in this case that of those charging for services who have never had to pay for them or try and unravel what is delivered - have less relevance to a question.

I also note that a similar proportion of local authority planners disagree that allowing councils to set their own fees will hamper development. I know turkeys rarely vote for Christmas, but are these same planners really that blinkered? I am sure that applications are not about to become cheaper for the vast majority of developers. How can these charges really promote an alleged growth agenda?

I suggest a fix to stimulate planning applications: a one-year moratorium on planning fees and a relaxation of the unwieldy and onerous validation requirements operated by some councils that make assembling an application a major investment and prohibit applications coming forward in these straitened times. Crude, I know, but a move in the right direction.

Finally, the ills of the housebuilding sector should not be laid at the planning system's door. The banking sector, whose inability to lend without prohibitive conditions and charges to developers and new mortgagees, should take a long hard look at itself.

P Hughes, London


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