March 9 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, February 1, 2014
A council’s planning department is set to rake in a quarter of a million pounds of extra income from planning fees – despite repeatedly failing to meet national targets.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council anticipates making £250,000 more than it budgeted for from planning fees this financial year, after receiving more applications than expected.
The fees are set at a national level which was increased in October, with some of the council’s surplus used to fund its emerging long-term planning strategies like Vision 2031.
A spokeswoman from the council said: “The reason for having more planning application fees than budgeted is that we have received more planning applications than expected.
“This happened while we are completing a restructure to create a shared planning service with Forest Heath to deliver savings.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has set councils targets for determining planning applications – 13 weeks for major applications and eight weeks for others.
However, St Edmundsbury has fallen well short of meeting Government targets for the first nine months of this financial year for both major, minor and other applications.
Just two out of 11 major applications were decided in the 13-week timeframe between October and December, with the DCLG calling on councils to hit the 13-week deadline at least 65% of the time.
A DCLG spokesman said: “Sometimes planning decisions can take too long. This can slow down or prevent people building new homes, creating new places and bringing disused or neglected land and buildings back into productive use.
“We need to ensure that the planning rules or poorly managed planning processes do not unnecessarily prevent or delay development.”
The DCLG wants councils to decide minor applications – such as a small housing development – and other applications within eight weeks 75% and 80% of the time respectively.
The figures for St Edmundsbury in the past three months were 44% and 57%, which were improvements on the previous quarters this year.
A council spokeswoman said: “We are making good progress, and with the new staff structure coming into place, we will be working to improve performance quarter on quarter.”