The government should get on with introducing the next round of the fee rise, by Richard Garlick

At last, the regulations that are intended to enable local planning authorities to raise application fees by 20 per cent have been laid before Parliament.

They need to be approved by both houses, but few expect significant opposition, as the increase has the support of the property industry as well as local authorities. Nonetheless, it is still not certain when town halls will be able to implement the higher charges. The Department for Communities and Local Government says that the rise will come into force this year, but adds the caveat "subject to parliamentary scrutiny".

All English local planning authorities have accepted the increase, which comes with the condition that it must be ring-fenced for spending on their planning departments. The generosity of the measure should not be overstated, as inflation has eroded the value of existing fees by about ten per cent since the last rise in 2012. But it will make a significant difference to planning departments' resources.

In July, Planning published research into the likely impact of the increase, conducted with the help of the Planning Officers Society, which represents local authority planners. It showed that council planning departments expected 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.

The average estimated annual income boost a council planning department expected to receive was £155,000 a year. The respondents were assuming that the increase would take effect in July 2017, the timetable originally envisaged by the government. But it seems reasonable to assume that the impact in the two years following the introduction of the fee rise will not be changed greatly by the timing of its introduction.

The delay is, however, unfortunate. Planning authorities would have greatly benefited from the injection of extra funds coming as early as possible in this financial year. Now it seems as if the benefit will be felt at the earliest in the final quarter. Fortunately, however, anecdotal evidence suggests that few planning teams budgeted for the increase this year, presumably because they have previously seen legislative timetables slip.

Now the government should get on with introducing the next iteration of the application fee increase. The consultation on the proposed new method of assessing housing need sought views on the "most appropriate criteria" to be applied to enable a proposed additional 20 per cent planning fee increase for authorities who are delivering the homes their communities need. It is only when this increase is introduced that planning departments will start to receive a really significant real terms increase in income per planning application compared to fees received five years ago.

Given the favourable climate in the development industry for further fee increases, as long as they are invested in improved planning services, the government should get on with setting these criteria as soon as possible. Equally importantly, ministers should set an indicative budget for the introduction of the further fee rise, so that planning authorities can budget for it.

Richard Garlick, editor, Planning // richard.garlick@haymarket.com


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Join the conversation with PlanningResource on social media

Follow Us:
Planning Jobs