Parliament c Marcin Nowak on Unsplash

A government consultation on planning fee increases will run until 25 April. Credit: Marcin Nowak on Unsplash

Govt unveils plans for 35% planning fee increase

Funds raised by the rising cost of submitting applications would go towards improving the capacity of local authority planning departments.

The government published a consultation on changes to planning fees yesterday. The proposed changes can be broken down to three categories: increases, new fees, and local authority support and other benefits.


  • The fees for major applications would increase by 35%
  • Non-major applications would see their price increase by 25%.
  • Planning fees would be adjusted in relation to inflation once a year
  • Fees for retrospective applications would double
  • Repeat applications would no longer benefit from a ‘free go’, meaning they would have to pay fees again

New fees

  • Additional fees would be introduced for ‘fast track’ services
  • A prior approval fee would be brought on for the permitted development right that allows the Crown to develop sites within a closed defence site perimeter

Local authority support and other benefits

  • Additional planning fee income would be ring-fenced
  • Money would go towards building planning capacity and capability within local authorities – and address issues around recruitment and retention
  • The planning guarantee would reduce from 26 weeks to 16 weeks for non-major applications
  • Increasing monitoring of performance measures to improve quality of the local authority planning service

A consultation on the proposals runs until 25 April and can be accessed at

Industry reaction

“The planning system is definitely crying out for serious changes but is this the right step?” wondered Thomas Pearson, partner and head of real estate commercial at JMW Solicitors.

“We are seeing across various sectors increased costs – if it leads to a much slicker planning system and resolves the delays faced and further recruitment by LPAs to properly service the work this should be seen as a positive,” he said.

“But given so many increased costs including construction and materials does this not just add to the pressure on developers and will the current market trends allow this to be offset or risk making schemes unviable?” Pearson queried.

We’ll pay, if there are results

Matt Claxton, planning director at developer Tritax Symmetry, acknowledged that on the face of it, the fee increase felt like an additional burden on an already expensive process that does not have a guarantee of success.

Despite that, he expressed cautious optimism about the plans.

“We have, as an industry, repeatedly highlighted the planning system as being a major hurdle to delivering development, a result of the many onerous requirements that must be addressed to secure planning permission, but also more recently a result of the lack of resource, experience and training within planning departments,” Claxton said.

He described the impact under-resourcing has already had, often leading to significant delays in project delivery.

“In that context, the proposed increase to fees is supported if it directly benefits planning service budgets,” he said.

“Creating additional funds to train, recruit and retain enough skilled and experienced planners and other technical specialists to deliver an effective planning service is essential if the planning system as a whole is going to improve,” Claxton continued.

“Providing a high quality and timely service that enables the right developments to come forward in the right locations without delay is essential to the growth of the UK economy,” he said.

“If a planning fee increase can assist this process, then the government’s proposals should be supported.”

Darren Muir, director at Pegasus Group, echoed Claxton’s sentiment.

“We have all witnessed how government cuts to local planning authorities have stymied development across the region, and our clients often tell us that they would happily pay higher application fees – for a better service,” Muir said.

“Pegasus Group would like to see the proposed changes go further: all planning fees should be protected and re-invested in our region’s planning and regeneration departments – not just ringfencing fees from the proposed ‘fast track’ service, which sounds all too similar to existing Planning Performance Agreements,” he continued.

“The consultation lacks detail on exactly how the government intends to improve recruitment, retention and capability,” Muir said. “The positive news is that the conversation has begun.”

Cautious optimism

David Diggle, a senior director in Turley’s Northern planning team, was also supportive of the government’s ideas.

“The industry has been calling for some time for more resources for LPAs to rebuild capacity, so this consultation is welcomed,” he said.

“The proposal to make an annual inflation-related adjustment to planning fees sounds like a good idea – this will provide certainty to both developers and LPAs and will avoid a continuous cycle of review,” he continued.

“I hope this is the first stage of a real discussion on delivering the necessary capital resources to fund planning departments properly.”

George Smith, planning manager at developer Cole Waterhouse, echoed Diggle’s thoughts.

“We broadly welcome the proposals to increase fees as we recognise under-resourcing is an ever-present drag on decision making and ultimately delivery of schemes,” he said.

Smith added later: “The idea to ring-fence fee increases to ensure that they are spent within planning departments, rather than being used to cross-subsidise other council functions is a very welcome proposal.”

Smith did caveat his optimism with some scepticism.

“This should, however, be coupled with better service levels from LPAs and unfortunately it will likely do little to address slow response times from many statutory consultees which is a wider issue that can cause significant delays,” he said.

What about the little guy?

For Bill Davidson, managing director at P4 Planning, the planning application hike will spell bad news for smaller businesses.

“The reality is that application fee increases will hit SMEs – who the government is meant to be encouraging – the hardest,” Davidson said.

“Adding costs to an already expensive and lengthy service will be a hard pill to swallow, particularly if the added funding is soaked up by helping to retain existing staff which, whilst also a key aspect of the solution, won’t actually bring about a faster, more reliable service,” he continued.

“The right balance must be struck: some level of fee increases is necessary, but if it simply becomes too expensive it will risk putting developers off.”

JMW’s Pearson expressed similar concerns, especially when factoring in the option to pay to fast-track a project.

“Some developers may find this attractive and see merit in progressing certain schemes down this route but the approach risks alienating some particularly in the SME market as it will be cost prohibitive,” he said.

Look beyond the pound signs

While the increase in fees may be the attention-grabbing part of the consultation, Jeremy Hinds focused on how the money would be used.

Hinds, the director of Savills’ national retail and North planning teams, said that planning fee hikes are absorbable since they are a small part of a development’s budget.

The main issue, for Hinds, is connecting that increase in fees with improved performance from the local planning authority.

“I think there will be hostility towards a fee hike if performance levels continue to decline,” he said. “So if fees can be geared towards increasing resources and enhancing performance rates, then I think as a general rule the property industry would welcome that and support a reasonable increase in the fee.”

But Hinds remained sceptical that this would introduce real change.

“The government is acknowledging that the system is not performing well and giving the right words to soften the blow – but it is not providing the mechanisms for local authorities to properly resource themselves,” he said.

Hinds concluded: “This will end up as a fee hike with no performance increases.”

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

I do enjoy the responses from the private sector when any mention is made of increasing planning app fees, despite the app fee being such a minor portion of the cost of the vast majority of works that they may be covering and often dwarves into comparison with the fees charged by all the relevant consultants that a developer is using, whether small scale or not.

By JohnMac

    I think you’ll find Jeremy Hinds’ comments at the end of the article particularly interesting – J

    By Julia Hatmaker

Maybe ‘industry reaction’ from an Local Planning Authority might have been a useful insight to, and balance to the private sector. Sounds like much needed funds to support a creaking existing service can only be a good thing.

By Industry view

    I agree about the value of a comment from an LPA! I reached out to a few councils but wasn’t able to hear back by my deadline for the story. Will definitely add comments in from any LPAs as I receive them though. Best – J

    By Julia Hatmaker

It simply never occurs to government to find ways to be more efficient and to jettison non-core activities, like we in the private sector must do. Nope: let’s find as many ways as possible to fleece the tax payer. This is just the latest ruse.

By Sceptical

Simply unacceptable given how poorly most planning departments perform. There should be a reduction if anything.

By 1981

No, no, no. Let’s skip to end: Continued utterly diabolical service only at an inflation smashing additional cost. Hinds is absolutely spot on!

I guarantee this will send the market into reverse, planning had already become a minimum £100k coin toss, which many SME’s struggled with, and this will soon just be a £120k coin toss. How may SME’s can spec that at risk? And then the idea you DON’T get a free go IF, after speculating your £120k and meeting the often incompetent Planning and Highways Committee, you had to make minor adjustments to then “go again”, only this time paying an ADDITIONAL £30-50k for the privilege… I don’t think anyone in central Government has any idea just how bad it is out there on the ground trying to get things through our current system.

Maybe focus policy efforts on the nutrient neutrality gridlock that is currently preventing hundred, if not thousands, of homes that would otherwise be consented from progressing. The current timeline for those locations where NN is an issue are open ended so anyone with bank debt on their development position has a very strong chance the project will simply be pulled because there is no end date in site.

I could rant about this all day. Putting the cost up, however, will achieve nothing.

By Frustrated SME Developer

If this helps to fix the numerous broken planning departments in the north west then it has to be a good think. Trying to deal with the likes of Cheshire East Planning Department has been a total nightmare. Wasting time and money when we should be getting on with projects.


If this genuinely helps planning departments retain and recruit, as opposed to the decimation most have experienced throughout cuts – sorry, austerity – then great. If not, it will be just another barrier to economic growth. I’ll reserve judgement.

By OverTheBorder

Didn’t they say this last time they increased fees? What we got was higher costs and a worse service.

By Mr Deja Vu

Commenting from an officer working with a LPA, I think this is a good thing. Private developers charge thousands yet the planning fee is by far the cheapest thing for the applicant to pay. If it helps staff retention and efficiency of the process I think it’s a great thing

By Anonymous

@ 1981, how do you think reducing fees could possibly help? Councils would have no other option than to cut further staff, worsening the existing situation.

By Sten

I see the Tories are doubling down on their commitment to burn the house down completely before they leave office. The main issue is lack of competent officers in the system, and morale within departments. Addressing this human resourcing issue, and deregulation, should be the priority. Throwing more money at it in a blind fashion will not fix anything.

By Lee

Two tier system now?? Based on ability to pay??

By Piermaster

The fee may be a minor part of a large scheme’s cost although its also all the additional reports and expense needed to support the application that has been increasing at a great rate over the past number of years. Additional considerations, costs, mitigation, viability arguments etc all involved. Quite often, meaningless planning performance agreements that aren’t adhered to due to the general lack of resource, experience and sometimes underlying agendas of consultees. What hope is there for SMEs as one of the other commentators mentions although, it also applies to all businesses in terms of any prudent business planning in the development industry (almost getting to an impossible stage in terms of programming/predicting anything). The planning system is simply not fit for purpose and I concur that this price hike is unlikely to provide the much needed performance increase.

By Kay Osrains

This will cripple small architectural businesses. We work with small budgets and cleaver ideas. The ‘free go’ is a regular thing we use to tackle having no power against ridiculous case officers who have no qualifications to justify their arguments and simply use the word overbearing or ‘impact on the street scene/green belt’ when they don’t want something; yet with big developers they just hold out their hands and take a back hander.

This country has failed it’s population. Unless your a tax dodging millionaire, move aside.

By Mike - architect

Considering how awful the service the private sector actually gets from LPA’s is, it should be going the opposite way.

By Anonymous

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