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Ferguson hails creation of new planning tariffs

George Ferguson has thrown his weight behind Whitehall's proposed changes to 'planning gain', saying plans for developers to pay an upfront tariff to local authorities match his own ideas.

The RIBA president said the charge, an alternative to traditional Section 106 agreements, would remove uncertainty and delays in planning.

The proposal, which was announced last week by the ODPM, will be added to the current planning bill. 'This is what I have been touting on the party conference circuit, ' Ferguson said. 'It's very much in line with thinking at the RIBA.'

But the institute is worried about the discretion local authorities would be granted in setting tariffs. There was a case for making the charge a universal rate, Ferguson said, and the RIBA would discuss this with the government. 'What we need most of all is certainty, ' he added. 'This [plan] may need knocking about a bit at the edges but it's a very good move.'

Other industry commentators fear local authorities could deter development with punitive tariffs.

Under the proposals, local authorities would have to detail their tariff: for example, how much per unit of housing. They could spend the cash from tariffs on projects such as affordable homes and schools, which could be separate to the development. However, developers could still choose to negotiate a Section 106 deal.

Planning Minister Keith Hill said: 'If [developers] want greater speed and certainty they can pay the charge, leaving them free to get on with things and the local authority the resources to spend on community projects'.

The House Builders Federation said it feared the size of the tariffs. 'It is vital that abuse of the process is dealt with, ' said spokesman Pierre Williams. 'We question whether or not these options will change anything.'

Town & Country Planning Association director Gideon Amos said the tariffs needed to be tightly controlled. Some local authorities might undercharge to win investment; others might charge excessive tariffs to deter development. 'We don't want to see a parallel planning world in which tariffs are used to control the use of land, ' Amos added.

The proposals are out to consultation until 8 January.

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