Kit Malthouse – 2019 Statement on Town and Country Planning

Below is the text of the speech made by Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Housing, in the House of Commons on 15 July 2019.

I beg to move,

That the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 10 June, be approved.

The regulations were laid before the House on 10 June 2019. If approved and made, they will remove a sunset clause in the existing 2012 fees regulations, thereby ensuring that local planning authorities can continue to charge fees for planning applications. Planning fees are an important source of income, supporting local authorities to have the resources and capacity to make effective planning decisions. It is therefore vital that the fees regulations remain in force. The regulations introduce a fee of £96 for prior approval applications for a larger single-storey rear extension to a house. If approved by this House, this new charge will come into effect 28 days after the regulations are made.

Planning application fees are crucial for a well-resourced, effective and efficient planning system. They provide local planning authorities with much-needed income to consider planning applications, which in turn provide new homes and deliver economic growth for our country. In January 2018 we raised planning application fees by 20%—the first uplift since 2012. This has increased income for the planning system and has enabled local planning authorities to improve their performance. We estimate that in England the total income raised through planning applications fees is £450 million. If there was no application fee, this cost would have to be funded by the council taxpayer.

I turn to the details of the regulations. First, the regulations propose to remove the sunset clause of 21 November 2019 contained in the existing 2012 fees regulations, the Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) Regulations 2012. By removing the sunset clause, local authorities will be able to continue to charge planning application fees, in accordance with the 2012 fees regulations, beyond that date. If the sunset clause were not removed, the fees regulations would cease to have effect after 21 November. This would mean that local planning authorities would no longer be able to charge fees for planning applications.

The 2012 regulations provided that there should be a review of their operation within five years, to ensure that they continued to achieve their objectives. The accompanying sunset clause meant that no action would be required if it was decided that the regulations were no longer necessary. I am pleased to confirm that the review was undertaken in 2017 and the outcome report ​laid before Parliament in December 2017. The review concluded that the 2012 fees regulations had achieved their objective. It confirmed that they ensured an effective planning application fee regime, which benefited both applicants and local planning authorities in providing for the proper consideration of planning applications. It is therefore appropriate that I bring these regulations before the House, to ensure that the planning application fees regime continues. The regulations will also ensure that those wishing to take forward development pay a fair fee and that local planning authorities have the resource and capacity they need to make high-quality and timely decisions.

Secondly, the regulations introduce a £96 fee for applications for prior approval for existing permitted development rights for a larger single-storey rear extension to a house. The prior approval process means that a developer has to seek approval from the local planning authority that specified elements of the development are acceptable before work can proceed. The matters for prior approval vary depending on the type of development, and those are set out in the relevant part of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. A local authority cannot consider any other matters when determining a prior approval application.

The permitted development right for a larger single-storey rear extension to a house was made permanent by way of amendments to the general permitted development order on 25 May, but currently the associated application for prior approval required to exercise this permitted development right attracts no fee. Now that the right is permanent, it is appropriate that we should enable local planning authorities to charge and receive a fee for the work they undertake to process and determine the applications they receive.

Other comparable applications for prior approval have a £96 fee, and we consider that that would also be an appropriate fee for a larger single-storey rear extension to a house, as the cost to the local planning authority of handling these is similar. Although a fee of £96 is an additional cost on homeowners wanting to extend their homes, it is not considered fair that the cost of the applications should continue to be subsidised by all taxpayers. The fee is modest, at less than half of the £206 fee that would be required for a planning application to carry out works to a house were it not for the permitted development rights. It will provide local planning authorities with resources that may otherwise have been diverted from other planning applications.

In line with existing fees for planning applications to alter or extend a home, the draft regulations provide that the fee will not apply where the application is for development designed to provide means of access for a disabled person or facilities designed to secure that person’s greater safety, health or comfort. That will mitigate the potential direct impact of the new fee on disabled persons, who might be considered more likely to make use of the permitted development right for larger home extensions.

We continue to keep the resourcing of local authority planning departments and where fees can be charged under review. We announced in the spring statement ​that the accelerated planning Green Paper, to be published later this year, will look at new approaches for local authorities to meeting the costs of their planning service and delivering improved performance. In the meantime, the draft regulations will ensure that local authorities can continue to charge planning fees after 21 November, including the new prior approval fee, thus providing them with the important resources they need to consider such applications. I commend the regulations to the House.