Huge hikes in planning fees have been criticised by a Kinross-shire councillor as a new tax on the building industry.
Swingeing national increases which could see developers pay up to £100,000 for a major application were passed by Perth and Kinross Council’s enterprise and infrastructure committee on Wednesday.
The headline figure in the fee structure is a more than 600% increase in the current £15,950 maximum, although still well below England’s £250,000 upper limit. Although it met with most councillors’ favour, it was criticised by Councillor Willie Robertson.
He said: ”This is a tax and a way of increasing the revenue from people who want to build a house or an extension. The building industry is struggling and small builders are particularly feeling it, and this is just another nail in their joist.
”People getting planning applications refused can’t go back and consult and get it sorted but they have to put in a new, expensive application.
”It’s an extremely good way to make a lot of money and it will put a lot of pressure on the planning department to give guarantees before (applicants) risk that amount of money.”
The fees cover all aspects of the application including pre-application discussions, preparing ‘section 75’ agreements on planning gain, enforcement and the costs associated with administering local review bodies.
In recent times, the council has taken a huge hit on large-scale applications such as windfarms.
Strathearn councillor Ann Cowan welcomed the Scottish Government proposal.
She said: ”It is an abomination that developers can wreck our countryside for such a small fee. At long last the Scottish Government has realised the enormous costs to councils of processing applications for large windfarms.
”There is currently a limit of £15,950 on any planning application and this is unrealistic for many types of large developments, but especially for windfarms.
”Councils cannot charge more even if it is for a large number of wind turbines, enough to bring the developers and landowners profits of several million pounds over the next few years. On these occasions it may well cost the planning authority several times the amount of the fee.
”Additionally, when an application is turned down the developers usually appeal to Edinburgh. If they then win their case at a subsequent enquiry, very often the council ends up footing the bill for that too
”In England, fees can be up to £250,000, so we are still going to be a cheaper alternative. It is only fair that people should pay what it costs, especially if they are in line to make massive profits.”
Other aspects of the government’s proposals deal with assisting the development of infrastructure, improving the processes by which development plan issues are resolved and looking at ‘permitted development rights’ to ensure the planning system is not loaded with applications for minor and uncontroversial developments.
Committee convener Councillor John Kellas, said: ”In general we welcome these consultations and the proposals put forward by the Scottish Government. It is in the best interest of everyone to have and speedier and more efficient system.
”The proposals contained in the consultations look like they will move us towards that. A planning system that works well will help deliver economic growth to Scotland.
”A lot of the details still have to be teased out, but that will happen over time. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to take the proposals forward.”
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