The Government has entered into consultation on new proposals to 'fast track' planning applications. These include allowing councils to compete to process planning applications and an increase of planning application fees. The hope is that this will assist in raising funds for cash-strapped local authorities as well as speeding up the application procedure for disgruntled applicants.
The British Property Federation's 2015 Annual Planning Survey showed that 55% of local planning authorities considered under funding to be a significant challenge and 75% of applicants found the length of time taken to deal with applications unsatisfactory. This would seem to provide a basis for the argument that a competitive new system which incentivises councils and reduces developers' frustration and dissatisfaction must be a good thing.
Councils have historically had a closed market when it comes to planning applications, and the gov.uk website states that research over the last three decades suggests that there are costs savings for competitively tendered or shared services.
But will it have a real impact on housing stock? Is the frustration with the time taken to deal with applications really having an impact on development?
The news appears to have been welcomed by large national housebuilders. However, higher fees are likely to have a more detrimental impact on small scale developers and individuals than on large scale developers.
The proposal intends to give applicants more choice. It is suggested that they could choose between submitting applications to their local council, another council or a "government approved organisation that would process applications up until the decision point". The proposals could then be seen as a form of privatisation for the planning process.
It cannot be denied that there is a general need for housing. Will making the planning procedure quicker but more expensive be equally as beneficial for individuals as it might be for housing stock?
Whether you are a developer or an individual looking to buy a plot of land to build on, it is advisable that you take legal advice at the earliest stage.
Fosters Solicitors can assist with this process. If you have any queries contact please contact us on 01603 620508 and ask for Simon Button in the Commercial Property Department.