Planning system should be 'principally funded' by developer contributions, says white paper

The government's new planning system should be "principally funded" by landowners and developers, while fees should continue to be set nationally but "cover at least the full cost" of processing applications, the planning white paper proposes.

Development: white paper says landowners and developers should pay more towards planning costs
Development: white paper says landowners and developers should pay more towards planning costs

The document, published for a 12-week consultation last week, says that, as the government forms its final proposals for the "new planning system", it will "develop a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector to support the implementation of our reforms".

It says the "cost of operating the new planning system should be principally funded by the beneficiaries of planning gain – landowners and developers – rather than the national or local taxpayer".

Currently, the document says, "the cost of development management activities by local planning authorities is to a large extent covered by planning fees, although the current fee structure means the cost of processing some applications can be significantly greater than their individual fee".

However, it added that the "cost of preparing local plans and enforcement activities is now largely funded from the local planning authority's own resources".

The document added: "If a new approach to development contributions is implemented, a small proportion of the income should be earmarked to local planning authorities to cover their overall planning costs, including the preparation and review of local plans and design codes and enforcement activities."

Planning application fees "should continue to be set on a national basis and cover at least the full cost of processing the application type based on clear national benchmarking", it went on to say, adding that this "should involve the greater regulation of discretionary pre-application charging to ensure it is fair and proportionate".

The government had previously mooted allowing councils to raise planning application fees in return for higher quality services.

The document also says that "reform should be accompanied by a deep dive regulatory review to identify and eliminate outdated regulations which increase costs for local planning authorities, especially to the decision-making process".

It added that councils "should be subject to a new performance framework which ensures continuous improvement across all planning functions from local plans to decision-making and enforcement – and enables early intervention if problems emerge with individual authorities".

It also said that the Planning Inspectorate and statutory consultees "should become more self-financing through new charging mechanisms and be subject to new performance targets to improve their performance".

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