DCN responds to proposed planning fee rise: ‘An essential boost to our over-stretched planners’
Under-pressure district council planning departments are set to receive a much-needed boost after the Government proposed increases in planning fees.
A consultation launched yesterday by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities proposes to increase the fees councils charge developers to adjudicate on their plans by 35% for major applications and 25% for minor applications. Under the proposals, planning fees will subsequently be adjusted annually in line with inflation.
Should the proposals proceed, they would offer a much-needed source of income for councils at a time they are experiencing pressure caused by budgets not keeping pace with rising costs and staffing difficulties. The planning sector has experienced a brain drain as staff have quit amid escalating workloads – and this has resulted in delays in processing applications.
At present the fees councils are allowed to charge developers do not cover the full costs of providing planning services, leaving them with a shortfall to cover which could have otherwise supported other local services.
The proposed fee increases will go a significant way to covering these costs. They will also help cover the costs of other planning related services such as local plans and enforcement, reducing the reliance on council funds to fund these services.
However, the DCN does have some concern about the potential additional workload burden resulting from the consultation’s proposal to subject planning departments to a “broader set of quantitative and qualitative measures” to assess their performance. We seek to work with the Government to ensure this results in minimal extra burden on councils.
In response to the consultation, Cllr Peter Fleming, DCN Finance Spokesperson, said:
“We are grateful that the Government has listened to the views of district councils by proposing that planning fees come closer to reflecting the significant costs of running these services. This is a vital step in ensuring that local planning teams are properly resourced.
“The work of planning departments is essential to ensure that our places can develop in a way which boosts growth and ensures much-needed housing is provided without impacting negatively on our cherished environment or the character of our places.
“Our hard-working planning officers have been crying out for these additional resources which should help stem the loss of planning expertise from our councils.
“This is an essential boost to our over-stretched planning departments that have experienced increasing workloads but fewer resources as a result of fees not keeping pace with demand. With overall council budgets under pressure many authorities have been unable to give their planners the support they need.
“Whilst the proposals to raise fees are welcomed, we would like to see the government go further to give us the freedom to recover the full cost of adjudicating on planning applications and to give greater local discretion to district councils when setting their budgets to ensure these services can flourish long into the future.
“We are concerned that the Government is proposing even more performance indicators when planning departments are already subject to numerous measures which are publicly available. We need to makes sure that any increase in planning fees isn’t swallowed up by a time-consuming and onerous reporting requirements.”