The ComRes poll, commissioned by the British Property Federation (BPF), shows that three in five (61%) MPs broadly agree that fees should increase, with around half (47%) saying that they should increase with stronger guarantees on planning performance. The results reveal cross-party support for an increase in fees, with two thirds of Labour (65%) and three in five Conservative (61%) MPs supporting the idea.
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 approximately two thirds (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 & Planning Bill, that closes today, 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.
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, commented:
“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.
“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. 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.”