Posted at 17:03h
in Apex News
Article in PropertyWire 18 April 2016 (reproduced with permission of PropertyWire)
Some 61% of MPs in the UK broadly agree that planning fees should increase and almost half 47%, say they should increase with stronger guarantees on planning performance.
Indeed, MPS from all political parties support fees being changed, according to a new poll commissioned by the British Property Federation (BPF). Some 65% from the Labour party and 61% from the Conservative party support an increase in fees.
The BPF says that the results show that Parliamentarians recognise that there is a problem, alongside the property industry and local authorities. The BPF and GL Hearn’s 2015 Annual Planning Survey revealed that 55% of local planning authorities perceived under resourcing to be a significant challenge, and that 65% of applicants are happy to pay more to shorten waiting times.
The government has taken some steps to address this problem, proposing to allow local authorities to outsource the processing of planning applications and to reward well performing local authorities by allowing them to increase planning fees by an inflationary increase, but the BPF has warned that these steps will not go far enough.
Responding to a government consultation on the technical planning changes set out in the Housing and Planning Bill, the BPF has welcomed the government’s recognition of the fact that local authorities ‘are struggling to provide the service required by applicants’, but cautions that the measures suggested will not be enough to plug the skills gap.
‘The public and private sectors have both been very clear about the need for more resourcing in local authority planning departments, and we now know that there is political understanding of this issue as well,’ said Melanie Leech, BPF chief executive.
‘We are supportive of the small steps that government is taking to address this, but are not holding out hope for any great impact. Some local authority planning departments are simply short staffed, putting those who remain under enormous strain,’ she explained.
‘Outsourcing the processing of planning applications is likely to relieve this burden to an extent, but it is not going to solve the chronic shortage of skills and resource that is the true problem,’ she added.
Meanwhile, land broker Aston Mead is advising councils without up to date local housing plans in place to act quickly before the Government steps in to write their plans for them.
Local authorities have been given until March 2017 to produce a local plan in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was introduced in 2012. However, with less than a year to go, recent research suggests that fewer than a third of local planning authorities outside London have an up to date NPPF compliant plan.
‘It’s absolutely incredible that with the deadline looming large on the horizon, so few councils have got their act together. By next year they will have had five years since the introduction of the NPPF and yet the vast majority have still to come up with the goods,’ said Aston Mead land and planning director Adam Hesse.
‘They have already been warned that if they fail to do so the Government will intervene to arrange for the plan to be written for them, in consultation with local people. What’s more, they have also been told that if they have not kept the policies in their local plan up-to-date, they will be a high priority for intervention,’ he added.
The research, carried out by consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, identified 21 local planning authorities most at risk of intervention the majority of which are in the metropolitan green belt around London.
They include Brentwood, Chelmsford, Epping Forest, Rochford and Uttlesford in Essex; Epsom & Ewell, Guildford, Mole Valley, Tandridge and Waverley in Surrey; East Hertfordshire and Three Rivers in Hertfordshire; Hart and New Forest in Hampshire; and Sevenoaks and Tonbridge and Malling in Kent. Others include Buckinghamshire councils South Buckinghamshire and Wycombe, as well as Derbyshire Dales, Oxford, and Windsor and Maidenhead.
“Already we’re working with individuals in these areas, who have discovered that it’s much easier getting planning permission on greenbelt land accepted by authorities without a local plan in place,’ said Hesse.
‘But local councils should act quickly. There are even proposals to withhold a financial reward known as the New Homes Bonus from councils which fail to produce a local plan in time – so together they could lose millions in pay outs. And ultimately no council worth its salt wants to have its planning policy dictated by Westminster,’ he added.