Exclusive: Planning chiefs expect to use fee increase cash to hire five new staff in next two years, survey finds

Council planning departments expect to be able to increase their staff by an average of almost five people over the next two years as a result of the government's proposed application fees rise, according to an exclusive survey by Planning and the Planning Officers Society (POS).

DCLG: wrote to authorities asking for expressions of interest in adopting increased fees in February
DCLG: wrote to authorities asking for expressions of interest in adopting increased fees in February

Our investigation also found that planning chiefs forecast an average estimated income boost of £155,000 a year if the fee rise comes into effect.

A further key finding is that 95 per cent of respondents ranked development management as the number one priority for any additional spending enabled by the fee rise.

In February, the government's housing white paper proposed that councils would be allowed to increase fees by 20 per cent as of this month.

Later that month, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) wrote to local authorities across England asking for expressions of interest in adopting increased fees. The letter said that any additional revenue raised had to be ploughed back into the planning service.

Last month, Planning joined forces with POS to survey senior planning officers in England about the likely impact of an increase in fees. We received responses from 71 local authorities.

According to our survey, the DCLG letter received an enthusiastic response. Ninety-four per cent of respondents told us they had accepted the government's offer. The results also show that fee income is expected to rise by an average of £155,000 a year.

Respondents reported an expected average increase of 2.7 full-time equivalent posts in their planning departments in 2017-18 and a further 2.1 posts in 2018-19.

Councils overwhelmingly indicated that development management would be the focus of any additional spending enabled by the fee rise, with 95 per cent of respondents ranking it as their number one priority, with policy and local plan-making a distant second.

In terms of staffing resources, two out of three planning chiefs identified salaries for additional permanent professional planning staff as the most likely target for investment.

However, almost half of councils said they were yet to receive confirmation from the DCLG that they would be able to claim the increased fee.

Last week, DCLG told Planning that it would publish more details on the fee increase "in due course".

The full survey can be found here

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