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Exclusive survey reveals how councils plan to spend revenues raised from planning fee increases

Date: 14/7/2017

Council planning departments expect 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, according to an exclusive survey by Planning and the Planning Officers Society.

Last month, Planning joined forces with POS to survey senior planning officers in England about the likely impact of an increase in fees. We received responses from 71 local authorities.

Steve Ingram, the new POS president and strategic director for development and growth at South Kesteven District Council, says increased fees would be welcomed by public and private sector alike, both of which had lobbied for the move. "That is the pertinent point - (lobbying came from) across the development industry," he says. Ingram says that the extra income won't solve all the budget challenges facing local authorities, but welcomes this "minor recognition of the resourcing issue".

Others echo Ingram's view. "It'll go some way," says Paul Seddon, senior POS vice-president and chief planner at Nottingham City Council, who noted that the £155,000 per year could translate into two or three additional members of staff.

"Development management is at the coalface and where the pressure is most acute," says Seddon. "But it's also where we've seen an uplift in workload. It's where we need those feet on the ground." For Nottingham, Seddon says: "The priorities will probably be about two-thirds into development management and one-third into plan-making."

POS has called on the government to end the uncertainty, with support from the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, which represents senior officers in upper tier local authorities.

  • DCLG have confirmed that the promised 20 per cent increase in planning fees in England will not go ahead until after Parliament's summer recess.

Rather than providing a boost to planning teams, some councils may now find themselves in a difficult position. "People who moved forward on the assumption that it was an absolute and have built it into their budget obviously have a challenge now," Ingram says. Nevertheless, after several years of cuts to planning budgets, the fee rise will be welcomed if it arrives as promised. "It is a small step in the right direction," Ingram says.

Steve Ingram President 17_18_web.jpg Steve Ingram  PaulSeddon_web.jpg Paul Seddon

 

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