Housing minister Gavin Barwell has floated the introduction of a new ‘premium’ planning service for developers
The suggestion came in an answer by the MP for Croydon Central to questions from the Communities and Local Government Committee at a House of Commons committee yesterday (8 November), alongside secretary of state Sajid Javid, minister for local government Marcus Jones and Northern Powerhouse minister Andrew Percy.
The comments follow similar suggestions made by former housing minister Brandon Lewis in February, who said that developers could pay a fee to have their planning applications fast-tracked under new government proposals to speed up housing delivery.
Barwell said: ‘One of the things that lots of developers say to us is that they would be prepared – in [certain] circumstances – to pay additional fees to the normal ones in order to get a premium service.
’[What] the government always has to bear in mind when thinking about planning fees is that they are paid, both by individual families that are looking to extend their home, but also by very large [public bodies and limited companies] who clearly, or often, would be prepared to pay significantly more because, as a quantum of their potential profit from a development, it’s a pretty small share.
He added: ’I think those kinds of agreements, or other flexible arrangements, are all worth looking at.’
In addition, Barwell said the Department for Communities and Local Government had recently consulted on the resourcing of planning departments, and that a white paper of the results would be published later this year.
Back in February, the then housing minister Brandon Lewis said: ’Now we want to go further by setting out these ambitious proposals to link any future increases in application fees to councils’ performance, and testing more competition, including through offering dedicated fast-track application services.’
Two years ago property developers started to lobby the government for fast-tracked planning services.
In July 2014, then chief executive of Barratt Developments Mark Clare told Construction News the cost of planning delays was ‘massive’.
He said: ’I would much prefer this to be funded properly, because I want to get the decisions and I think there are a lot of planning departments that are under enormous pressure.’
Developers are currently able to enter into planning performance agreements with local authorities, which allow them to pay a fee for certain legal services.