Only one in five consultants believe raising fees will boost council performance

Only one in five planning consultants believe increased application fee rates will improve local authority performance, according to this year's Planning Consultancy Survey.

Asked if they agreed whether government plans to allow authorities to increase application fees would improve their performance, only 20 per cent said they agreed or strongly agreed. Meanwhile, 40 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed and a similar amount were unsure.

The findings come a month after the government laid regulations in Parliament that would allow councils to raise planning application fees by 20 per cent as long as the extra money was ploughed back into planning services.

However, an overwhelming 94 per cent of consultants also identified a lack of local authority resources as a "major constraint" on local plan production and timely decision-making.

As part of the survey, which this year received usable responses from 136 firms, we asked a series of questions about current planning issues.

The results also show that consultants are yet to be convinced about the effectiveness of either the government’s proposed new standard method for calculating housing need or its housing delivery test.

Just under half said they thought the government’s new housing need method would speed up plan making, while only 42 per cent thought it would boost housing targets.

They were even less positive about the housing delivery test. Only a quarter believed the test would help boost housing delivery, with 60 per cent unsure.

Meanwhile, more consultants disagree than agree that permission in principle for sites in local plans and on brownfield registers will help deliver more good-quality housing

Almost two-fifths do not believe paid-for planning performance agreements with councils are good value for money; while almost half say the same about paid-for pre-application discussions .

The government has set itself a target of building one million new homes by 2020 but almost three-quarters of consultants think it will not meet this.

In line with last year’s survey findings, consultants are still not keen on neighbourhood planning. Almost two-thirds say neighbourhood planning has helped residents resist new development while only 8 per cent say it has helped increase housing permissions.

Again, like last year, respondents also expressed strong views about green belt. Some 83 per cent agreed that green belt policy "imposes undue constraints on development" and should be reviewed.

Consultants are even gloomier about economic prospects this year - only 24 per cent think the economic climate for development will improve in the next 12 months, compared to 40 per cent last year and 88 per cent in 2015. But 60 per cent still think their consultancy will grow in size in the year ahead.

The full survey can be read here.

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