In a radical move by Ministers, private planning providers could be permitted to charge applicants ‘premium’ rates to fast-track the processing of their planning applications under a controversial pilot scheme to open the system up to competition, writes Poole-based property developer Richard Carr.
Communities’ secretary Greg Clark last month proposed an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill would give the government new powers to: “test … the benefits of allowing planning applicants to choose who processes their planning application.”
The process could potentially price planners out of quick permissions: “the competition is expected to create a more diversified offer in terms of the speed and fee of services available to planning applicants”. It suggests that approved providers and local planning authorities participating in pilot schemes “may offer a guarantee to process planning applications more quickly in return for a higher fee (a ‘fast-track’ service).”
The government impact assessment acknowledged the cost issues and also the possible impact upon current local planning authorities.
“It could increase costs for some applicants and it could be that some applicants for planning permission may not be able to pay for any premium service which is offered. The competition pilots will be able to fully test this and any other potential negative impacts.
“It could take pressure off stretched planning departments … there is also a risk that some models of competition could reduce resources and capability within local planning authorities, if significant numbers of applications are processed by alternative providers and resources are reallocated.”
The impact assessment also explored the recent debate surrounding the current level of planning application fees against the costs face by local planning authorities.
Increasing the costs of applications may help support the resourcing of planning departments, however it said: “it is equally vital that local authorities take steps to keep the costs of processing planning applications to a minimum.”
Richard Carr believes outsourcing planning appeals would be beneficially to developers as the current wait for approvals is hideous long. He has experienced waiting twelve months to get a decision and that’s before an appeal might have to be lodged.
He feels developers should be able to claim compensation by planning authorities on time lost during successful appeals. Time is money!