Home building industry body opposes proposed planning fee rises in Scotland

The home building industry in Scotland is opposing proposals to increase the maximum fees for major planning applications of 570 or more houses to £125,000.

A consultation is open until 04 April 2017 on the proposals which also would increase fees for planning permission in principal to £62,500 and is considering wider changes to the fee structure, including scope for further discretionary charging taking account of changes to the planning system.

But building industry body Homes for Scotland is pointing out that at present the plans do not have a structure to ring fence the extra income and no mechanism to guarantee that the performance of the planning system will improve as a result of the increased fees.

‘We do not object to the principle of reviewing and increasing fees but in recent months the average decision time for major housing applications has been 48.5 weeks, more than three times the statutory period of 16 weeks,’ said Tammy Adams, director of planning at Homes for Scotland.

‘This is disastrously slow and does not include the likes of negotiating Section 75 Agreements or road construction consents. The slowness of Scotland’s planning system works against the common goal of all those who want to increase the delivery of much needed new homes,’ she pointed out.

‘Indeed, our members tell us it has never been harder to get homes out of the ground. As no evidence has been provided to suggest the planning fee is the root cause of poor performance, or that the increase now proposed will guarantee a material improvement to applicants, we cannot support the measures currently being put forward,’ she added.

The organisation reckons that it is possible to produce a stronger and more supportable package of measures to improve planning performance and justify a review of planning fees.

‘We will therefore be requesting a meeting with officials and Ministers as soon as this consultation closes,’ said Adams.

The Scottish Government first commissioned an independent panel to undertake a review of the planning system in 2015 and as a result committed to consulting on enhanced fees, following the independent review of planning recommendation that fees for major applications should be increased substantially so that the service moves towards full cost recovery.

The Scottish Property Federation (SPF) said it supports an increases in planning fees if it can lead to a more streamlined, effective and efficient planning service in Scotland but director David Melhuish said it will only work is ‘used wisely’.

‘SPF members have previously indicated a willingness to pay a higher planning fee, for a tangible improvement in performance by planning authorities. However, it is important that Scotland continues to remain competitive and these significantly increased planning fees must be used to deliver the critical improvements required in the planning service, such as an improvement in the speed and manner that major applications are deal with,’ he explained.

‘Developers are already required to pay substantial sums far in excess of the planning fee for a range of technical reports and assessments. For a major development these costs can easily run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and are all prepared at risk to the private sector applicant, without any guarantee of a development being approved. It is important that we work with government to create a system which is not viewed by developers as prohibitive to development,’ he added.

Under the current proposals there would be no change to the £10,025 maximum fee for small developments of 25 houses. Fees for developments of 100 houses would go up by £10,000 to £30,050.

The biggest rise would be for large developments of 500 houses or more, which would rise by £90,000 from £20,050 to £110,050 with a maximum of £125,000 for housing developments of 575 or more, or land of more than 55 hectares.

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