Mark Campbell, head of planning at new Thames Tap partner Evans Jones Ltd looks at one of the main challenges facing local government – funding.  He says wide reaching implications for local services include clear and obvious issues faced with social care and the provision of public amenities. However, the lack of suitable funding is not just limited to these functions but also impacts on the ability to provide an effective planning service.

Local authorities have a long list of statutory functions, all of which cost significant sums of money to run. 

Quite rightly, issues such as social care and education provision are prioritised when budgets are strained.  However, in order to provide an effective and efficient planning service, planning departments also need to be properly funded.

There has been a long-standing debate on how planning application fees are set.  Currently, application fees are set at a national level, meaning you pay the same for your application wherever you are in the country.

Many at local government level have fought for the provision of locally set fees, arguing that more affluent areas that generate greater returns on development should be able to capture some more of this revenue at application stage.

Whatever the position, it is clear that application fees generated do not cover the provision of the service provided.  It has been estimated by the Local Government Association that taxpayers will be subsidising planning departments to the tune of £1 billion by 2022.  Clearly, this is tax revenue that could and should be spent elsewhere.

I consider that nationally set fees are appropriate to have a level playing field.  However, these fees should cover the cost of providing planning services.  You will be charged £462 to apply for planning permission for a single dwelling.

Assuming the dwelling will be worth at least £250,000, this equates to only 0.001 per cent of that value.  The highest planning application fee payable is capped at £300,000 and would only be hit for a full planning application for circa 2,000 dwellings.

Again, this is a small amount when compared to the possible development value.  Planning fees need to capture more of the value uplift they provide.  Such fees should then be solely used for planning services, freeing up tax currently used to subsidise the departments.

This is not an easy fix but I believe that developers would be prepared to pay higher application fees if it meant planning departments were better funded and more effectively and efficiently run.

Mark Campbell argues against the Article 4 Direction being sought by Reading Borough Council.

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