Date: 20/05/2022 | Commercial Property, Construction, Planning, Residential Development
The Scottish Government estimates that, had the applications made in 2020/21 been subject to the new rates, an extra £1.2 million could have been raised from householder applications alone. Planning authorities and developers alike are still reeling from the economic consequences of Covid-19, Brexit and global geo-political instability. However, consultation responses to fee rise proposals since 2019 indicate that regulators and large developers are all broadly in favour of them. There is recognition that Councils have been keeping the planning wheels turning despite being under-resourced.
While developers are willing to pay more, they will likely also demand more from a system that is already stretched. The impact of additional funds on procedural efficiency is unclear, given there are no requirements to ring-fence or use planning application fees for planning application purposes. Further, Councils must refund a fee where the application to which it relates is invalid. A large number of applications are invalid when they are first submitted – for example, Aberdeen City Council estimates that 60% of its applications in 2018 were invalid. This means a significant proportion of pre-validation work is routinely done by authorities, in effect, free of charge.
Planning authorities have discretion to levy fees for certain applications which, until 31 March 2022, were generally free (or subject to a nominal administrative fee). These include:
The regulations are silent on applications to vary or discharge Section 75 planning obligations agreements. To date, most Councils have not charged an application fee for this but typically require applicants to pay the Council’s legal costs for formal deeds necessary to give effect to the changes sought.
Authorities must publish their fees online so the cost should be transparent to applicants before embarking on the application process. Authorities can choose whether or not to charge fees and, if they do, whether to charge the maximum amount allowed under the Regulations. In theory, a competitive pricing situation could arise, with authorities seeking to attract developers to their areas with lower fees. In practice, though, planning fees are not key financial drivers behind larger developments and fee differences between authority areas are unlikely to be sufficient to influence a decision on where to build.
Please contact our Head of Planning, Jacqueline Cook, for further information.
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