Councils welcome right to set planning fees

Author: Vivienne Russell, Public Finance   |  

Town halls have welcomed plans to allow them to set their own planning fees.

In a consultation launched yesterday, the Department for Communities and Local Government suggested giving councils the power to recover the true costs of processing planning applications by varying their fees. However, authorities would not be able to profit from the fees. Currently, the centrally imposed planning fee regime means any shortfall in revenue is plugged from councils’ own funds.

Decentralisation minister Greg Clark said: ‘Having a system where Whitehall dictates to local councils what planning fees they can charge is very unfair for local taxpayers around the country who are left paying for the shortfall where fees don’t cover costs.

‘Letting councils set their own fees is a much fairer system for both the applicant and the local taxpayer and will ensure there is flexibility in the system to recover the actual costs of applications.’

Commenting on the proposals, Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association’s environment board, said: ‘Allowing councils to charge the full cost of processing planning applications will help plug a £230m black hole in the planning system.

‘Last year, town halls had to subsidise developers by more than £500 for every planning application submitted.’

Porter added that councils should be given flexibility to cover the costs of all planning and regulatory services.

‘Town halls should be able to set their own charges for licensing applications, and need to be able to levy fees for other planning matters like tree preservation orders and listed building consents.’

If the proposals are taken forward, local authorities will be able to start setting up their own fee regime in April. The DCLG will work with CIPFA to develop a model and methodology that councils can refer to when developing their charging schedules. There will be a six-month transitional period before central government’s fee regime is withdrawn.

The consultation period ends on January 7 2011.

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