Monday, 22 November 2010

Fees fraud


As promised last week, I am posting below some further observations from Stephen Ibbitson arising from the confusion caused by the revised rules for householder PD. All too often this results in householders having to make applications for express planning permission for minor developments and, as Stephen points out, it is costing them a disproportionate amount in application fees, and these fees are set to rise further.

Stephen writes:

We can perhaps expect that LPAs will interpret PD so as to create a planning application and thus generate fees; that much is no surprise. But how will this pan out, I wonder, for householder application fees in the future now that the level of fees is to be determined locally? I worked out from data published in the new fees consultation document that for every £100 somebody earned in 1989 they would have to now earn £424 to match the increase in fees since then. (Perhaps I should flag that up to the Daily Wail?!?) The last increase was 23% as recently as 2008 and still they are, apparently, not covering costs. Doesn't it occur to government that the problem, just maybe, does not lie in the inadequate level of fees but in how increased receipts are being spent?

I have recently come across a case in my own village: a 6ft x 4ft greenhouse (a modest development by any standards) erected in a side garden. Cost of greenhouse = circa £250; cost of planning application, drawings, fees etc for erection of greenhouse = circa £2,500. NB: It would have been PD under the old regs.

I have never researched this, but I have the impression that householder application fees - at £150 + VAT - are effectively subsidised; they have been held at lower levels than real costs for many years. So with LPAs free to set levels 'at cost' I have a hunch that householder application fees will at least double under the proposed new regime, possibly triple.

The consultation document says: "We will undertake consultation on this proposal with small businesses and their representatives in parallel with consultation with the wider public", but how will they consult with the 'wider public' and, in particular, with householders? Householders are not collectively represented at all except rather nebulously through local councillors. They have no collective voice. There is no way the government can meaningfully 'consult' them. I have toyed in the past with the idea of trying to set up a National Householders Association to remedy the problem. But the trouble is that most householders deal with the system as a one-off experience. Having gone through the planning application process (quite possibly/probably one which was not necessary in the first place) and got through to the other side, most people would rather stick their heads in a bucket of sick that have anything more to do with! And those who've yet to go through the mill simply wouldn't believe in advance what they could be in for.

STEPHEN IBBITSON

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