Planning departments finance supplemented by voluntary fees

Westminster City Council has raised more than £400,000 to plug a shortfall in its planning department's finances by charging the developers of major schemes extra fees in return for agreed timetables for when their applications will be processed.

Worried about the threat posed to the council's planning service by budget cuts and the extended delay to government plans to let councils set their own fees, the council agreed a series of planning performance agreements (PPAs) with developers. These deals see developers of major projects pay the council a voluntary fee of £26,000 in return for the council committing to a timetable for determining the application and to meet with the developers to overcome issues that arise.

The added income has helped the council's planning department meet its budgetary shortfall, fill vacant posts and keep on staff at risk of redundancy.

On the subject of council’s setting their own planning fees the Government has been urged to come to a decision. In response to last month’s budget and launch of the NPPF Faraz Baber, director for policy, London First, said

“They [the councils] will however need resources to allow them to deal with the responsibilities that the NPPF, the community infrastructure levy and neighbourhood planning will bring. It’s important that the government comes forward with a decision about whether to let councils set their own planning fees. The private sector needs to be able feel confident that the public sector has the resources to deliver for them.”