Planning for Housing: Fee rise should be in force by end of the year, says Quartermain

The ability for all English councils to raise planning application fees by 20 per cent should come into force by the 'end of the year', the government's chief planner has said.

Steve Quartermain speaking earlier today
Steve Quartermain speaking earlier today

Steve Quartermain was speaking at Planning’s Planning for Housing conference this morning on proposals in February’s Housing White Paper that would allow English councils to raise planning fees by 20 per cent.

The white paper initially said the move – in which local planning authorities could raise fees in return for a commitment to "invest the additional fee income in their planning department" - would go ahead in July.

But last month, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said that regulations necessary to implement the fee rise would not be laid before Parliament until "this autumn", subject to parliamentary approval.

Speaking today, Quartermain said: "We are waiting for regulatory time in Parliament to take the regulations through. My anticipation would be that the regulations should be brought into force at the time they are laid."

Talking about the ongoing consultation on housing need, Quartermain said councils should not regard the proposed requirement for them to produce statements of common ground with neighbours as an "extra burden".

He said: "It’s not extra stuff. It’s trying to give people the framework to do the stuff they should be doing now."

Quartermain said he "would urge" authorities "not to go down the path" of producing lengthy statements of community involvement or local development scheme lists. He said some councils were producing glossy documents of 30-plus pages.

He said: "Why are you spending all your time doing this rather than doing what you need to do?"

Talking about the ongoing consultation on a new housing need assessment method, Quartermain emphasised that the government was not mandating a housing target.

He said: "It’s to give a starting point to plan for. You don’t have to follow this methodology."

Local authorities are "free to choose another methodology", he said, but they can expect to see that method undergo more scrutiny at examination.

The government would take into account responses to the housing need consultation before making its long-awaited revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Quartermain added.

He reiterated that the government aimed to publish the draft NPPF in early 2018 and a revised framework in the spring of 2018. "We will aim to do it sooner if we can," he added.

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