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Planning application fees hiked by 15%

The government has announced plans to increase local councils’ planning fees by 15 per cent, coming into force this Autumn.

In a written statement, parliamentary under-secretary of state for communities and local government Baroness Hanham said the one-off increase was aimed at matching inflation and allowing planning applications and appeals to be processed within 12 months.

Baroness Hanham said “the measures that I am announcing will make a further important contribution to our task of making planning simpler, more accessible and better able to support sustainable development”.

CBI director for business environment Rhian Kelly said that while the central setting of fees was welcomed by business, the government “should be mindful of the additional strain that this 15 per cent increase will put on firms, who are already cautious with their development plans in these challenging economic times”.

“Hard-pressed businesses and investors will expect the fee increase to be matched by service improvements, and the onus is on the government to monitor performance, so that investment is not deterred.”

The uprating comes as part of a raft of measures announced by planning minister Greg Clark yesterday intended to streamline the planning system.

The reforms aim to simplify the planning process by speeding up decisions, reducing paperwork and making it easier to re-use existing agricultural, retail and commercial buildings without planning permission.

One consultation paper has been published on changing the Use Classes Order, which determines how vacant buildings can be re-used, while another seeks responses on the simplification of information requirements. Both will close in September this year.

Meanwhile use of vacant commercial buildings is also set to be simplified in line with the Portas Review, while the amount of planning guidance is to be reduced from the current 6,000 pages, and the resources afforded to planning departments is set to be increased.

The move follows the reforms of the National Planning Policy Framework and the Localism Act, which the government says has increased the rate at which councils are putting local plans in place from 60 in 2004-2010 to 37 in the last year alone.

Greg Clark said the reforms were making the planning process “simpler, clearer and more accessible to people in communities”.

“Our aim is to have a system that applicants and members of communities can be confident will give a reliable, swift and fair outcome.”

The Community Infrastructure Levy, which is used to fund the infrastructure requirements of new developments, is also set to be reformed in Autumn so that developers are not charged twice if they amend planning consent.

The government is also proposing to create a mechanism for applicants to obtain awards of costs where statutory consultees have acted unreasonably, as well as extending the funding to April 2013 for the four bodies providing advice and support for communities “leading the way” with neighbourhood plans.

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