Planning fee increase must lead to additional resources for planning departments to unlock development and wider economic growth
The British Property Federation (“BPF”) the voice of the UK real estate industry, has backed a proposal from Government to increase planning fees for major developments by 35%, but only if the additional income is used to provide more resources for local planning departments to help reduce delays and create a more efficient and responsive planning system.
Planning fees were last increased in 2018 by 20% but despite this additional income local planning departments have continued to face challenges in meeting demand and assessing major applications efficiently.
In its response to a consultation by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which closes this week, the BPF states that the property sector would support a significant increase in planning fees if it means applicants will receive a higher level of service. It also argues that existing funding for planning departments must be maintained and that the additional income must be used to increase resources for local planning departments to help increase technical expertise in areas such as conservation, digital planning and energy performance and enable all forms of planning application to be processed more quickly.
It also states that the so-called ‘free go’, which allows applicants to resubmit applications without paying an additional fee, should remain in place to avoid any ‘perverse’ financial incentive for local authorities to refuse applications and avoid penalising smaller developers whose application fees making up a higher proportion of costs to an overall development scheme.
The BPF response also highlights the consultation’s lack of focus on enhancing planning resourcing for statutory consultees, such as National Highways and the Environment Agency who will be crucial to the progress of many significant planning applications. While it acknowledges recent amends to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill address this issue, the BPF calls for more support for all public bodies, departments and agencies involved in the planning process in order to create a system that is fully optimised to deliver economic growth.
Sam Bensted, Assistant Director (Planning and Development), British Property Federation, said:
“The planning system is a key enabler of investment and economic growth, but for a decade it has been under-invested and under-resourced, leading to costly and unnecessary delays in the planning process that act as a disincentive to invest in the UK.
“The property sector fully supports an increase in planning fees, but the additional income must be used to truly bolster local authority planning departments to help ensure we have system that is responsive and efficient.
“However, increasing planning fees will only create additional income for councils if we continue to see major projects brought forward. The recent changes to the NPPF, which are likely to mean less land is allocated for development and have led to some authorities to review their Local Plans, are likely to stymie activity at a time when developers are already facing cost pressures. We need to support all areas of the planning and development process if we want to encourage long-term investment and drive economic growth.”
Read our full response here.