Councils press for new planning charges

A group of nine councils have written to decentralisation minister Greg Clark calling for powers to charge fees for listed building and conservation area consents in order to 'avoid compromising on our heritage'.

Councils want to charge fees for listed building consents
Councils want to charge fees for listed building consents
In the letter, signed by the portfolio holders for planning at councils including Westminster City Council, Bristol City Council and Wiltshire Council, the local authorities say that, at present, they are "either unable to charge for, or are required to subsidise, a significant proportion of the applications we handle every year".

Currently, no charge is attached to applications for listed building and conservation area consents or applications for tree works.

But the councils say that listed building, conservation area and tree applications require specialist staff. In the letter, they state that, with local authorities being required to make significant savings over the coming months, "it is important to ensure this specialism is retained if we are to avoid compromising on our heritage".

The letter says: "Most listed building alterations cost many thousands of pounds to carry out. Not only would a small charge for an application – which is likely to be as low as a couple of hundred pounds – be insignificant for the applicant, it would remove the burden of cost being met by local taxpayers for what is a statutory duty."

It continues: "As local authorities with a significant number of listed buildings, we would therefore welcome proposals which include the powers to charge for these consents and for tree applications if we are to maintain, and potentially enhance, the quality of the service we offer."

Last year, a coalition of local authorities – including some of the same councils – made a similar call in a letter to Clark.

The latest letter was sent on 15 November 2011, a year after the government launched a consultation on plans to replace the current system, whereby fixed fees are set by central government, with a system that would give local authorities the power to set their own fees to cover costs.

At the time, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said that, if the proposals in the consultation were taken forward, local authorities would be able to set their own fees from April 2011 and begin charging them from October.

But local authorities have not yet been given permission to set their own fees as the DCLG has yet to state publicly whether it intends to take forward the reforms.

The letter was signed by:

- Robert Davis, deputy leader and cabinet member for the built environment, Westminster City Council
- Sue Vincent, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, London Borough of Camden
- Mike Gittus, cabinet portfolio holder for planning and environment, Stratford District Council
- Sue Jepson, portfolio holder for planning services, Cotswold District Council
- Tim Ahern, cabinet member for planning policy, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
- Toby Sturgis, cabinet member for waste, property and development control services, Wiltshire Council
- Anthony Negus, cabinet member for housing, property services and regeneration, Bristol City Council
- Dave Merrett, cabinet member for city strategy, York City Council
- Denise Hyland, cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and skills, London Borough of Greenwich

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