The building industry has hit out at planning fee hikes of 35 per cent for developments of more than ten homes and 20 per cent for other applications with no guarantees services will improve.

The last price rise was in 2018 when councils were allowed to increase fees by up to 20 per cent if they agreed to invest the money in their planning departments. There are no such conditions for the new price hikes which go live on the 6th of December.

The National Federation of Builders, NFB, housing and planning policy head Rico Wojtulewicz said planning should be monitored to see if they are delivering value for money.

“There needs to be an assurance that planning is speeding up. The only way to do this is with an Ofsted-style inspection system.”

He added: “We’re happy to pay as long as it’s a better service but there are no assurances that what we pay will lead to better outcomes.  It’s revenue-raising off the back of businesses.”

Less than a fifth of planning applications are approved on time

A spokesperson for the department for levelling up, housing and communities said: “We have made it clear that we expect local authorities to use the income from the planning fee increase for direct investment in their planning services to lead to an improved service.

Office of National Statistics data shows less than one fifth of councils are hitting the statutory target of approving a major application within 13 weeks compared with 56 per cent in 2014.

The department for levelling up, housing and communities was contacted for a comment but was unable to provide one at the time of writing this article.

Chief planning officer Joanna Averley said: “Local planning authorities should make arrangements to update their websites to reflect these changes to planning fees. The planning portal will also be ready to implement the new fees, where they receive applications on your behalf.”

The planning guarantee for applications of less than ten homes is to be reduced from 26 to 16 weeks.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said development finance lenders were pleased with the tighter limit.  However, it said the decision to remove fee exemption for repeat applications would be tough for SME builders.

Under the new system, only applications resubmitted within 12 months of a refusal or withdrawal that meet all other conditions will have their fee waived.

Photo by Christopher Bill on Unsplash

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Shiraz Khan