Ability to set fees locally remains a priority
Planning officers have warned that the government’s decision to increase planning fees by 15% will not be sufficient for councils to provide design review services.
Malcolm Sharp, president of the Planning Officers Society, said that while the fee increase was “welcome and long overdue”, the ability to set fees locally remained a priority to ensure the service could be provided.
“This is just going to help us keep the show on the road. Local authorities are hard pressed. Despite this increase there is still pressure and my belief is that we have to revisit local fee setting as soon as possible,” added Sharp.
Councils have been calling for local control over planning fees. A government consultation took place on the issue in 2010 and a decision on the proposal has been highly anticipated since then.
Funding of design review through planning application fees was recommended by the Bishop Review, carried out for Design Council Cabe.
A spokesman said DCC welcomed the news. “At a time when the new National Planning Policy Framework sets the bar for design higher than ever before, it is crucial that these increased fees result in high quality planning services which include the provision of effective design review.”
The government also announced a consultation on making it easier to change the use of buildings. Suggestions include allowing temporary changes of use for up to two years which would make it easier to open “pop-up shops”. Disappointment was expressed in some quarters that changes of use from office to residential were not included.
Architect and planner Brian Waters, of BWCP, said: “The really important change, for the economy and the housing market, is offices to housing. There is a huge missed opportunity there.”
· Reducing information required in applications, such as the content of design and access statements at the outline stage.
· Cutting down the amount of planning advice by consolidating around 6,000 pages of planning guidance.
· Speeding up the process for deciding on planning appeals.
· Ensuring councils whose planning decisions are consistent with an up-to-date local plan are not liable for costs at planning appeals.
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