Shortfall in planning fees

SIR - I came across a letter, the other day, written to the editor of the Blackmore Vale Magazine: this is a free, weekly magazine covering parts of Dorset and Somerset.

The letter contained an accusation against the North Dorset District Council (NDDC) over how the council charges for processing planning applications. The correspondent suggested that the council’s planning department was ‘self-funded’ and charged fees on an ‘ad valorem basis, according to the cost of the proposed development’: the implication being that the more planning applications the council approved, the greater the increase in the council’s overall income.

In the following week’s publication, there was a reply from the NDDC’s development control manager which rebutted the accusation and stated that planning application fees for householder development and dwellings are fixed nationally, although ‘some building regulation application fees are calculated as a percentage of the cost of the works’.

The interesting bit of the reply from NDDC was this: ‘In the last financial year, the council received �394,741 in planning fees, but the service cost �668,635; in other words, planning fees funded only 60% of the total cost of delivering the service’.

NDDC is a small council, so it would be worthwhile asking what East Devon District Council’s shortfall in planning fees was for the last financial year. But, if the example given by NDDC is anything to go by, millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are being spent throughout the land on subsidising planning applications. Under normal circumstances, this surely cannot be acceptable; but, at this time of savage spending cuts in council budgets, this should cease forthwith.

Ian Davies

via email