Councils will have to spend £1bn covering the cost of processing planning applications by 2022 if they are not allowed to set their own fees, according to the Local Government Association.
Since 2012 – the last time the national fees were increased – the LGA estimates local authorities have footed the bill for as much as a third of all planning applications.
Planning fees are set nationally and the LGA analysis of councils’ spending shows the cost associated with processing planning applications – of which councils receive 486,500 on average each year - is growing at a rate of about £200m a year.
The LGA has called on the government to bring forward its commitment in the housing white paper to allow councils to increase planning fees by 20% that was originally intended to have kicked in from July 2017. The white paper said the government was “also minded to allow an increase of a further 20% for those authorities who are delivering the homes their communities need”.
LGC reported in July how the government is expected to implement changes to planning fees policy through secondary legislation, despite the fact it did not get a specific mention in the Queen’s Speech.
The LGA is warning an ongoing fees shortfall is hampering the ability of individual planning departments to stimulate housing growth in their areas.
Martin Tett (Con), the LGA’s housing spokesman, said it was “wrong” councils were having to spend so much money plugging the financial gap on processing planning applications and added the shortfall “is heaping further pressure on the stretched planning departments which are so crucial to building the homes and roads that local communities need”.
“Councils need to be able to recover the actual cost of applications and end such a needless waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Cllr Tett. “Locally-set fees would also allow councils to prevent increased costs being passed on to residents, while developers could contribute more to maintain high-quality planning decisions, and improve the ability of councils to speed up the planning process.”