Proposals to increase Planning Fees in England: Small Change or a Positive Investment?

It is widely held that the planning system in England needs to shape up and nowhere is this more apparent in the timeframes for planning decisions. Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) have seen unprecedented attrition of experienced planners leave for private consultancy and contract based planning work or, sadly, for a career change. Whilst there are a number of reasons behind this, the result has been the LPAs have struggled to manage an increasing planning workload with reduced resources. This has been felt profoundly by those on the sharp end of the planning system as developers, businesses and householders find their applications delayed in the decision-making system.

Proposals which came out for consultation on February 28th suggest an increase in planning fees of 35% for major applications and 25% for all other applications.  Retrospective applications, other than householders would, under the proposals, attract a fee which is double the standard application fee. This is suggested by way of discouraging unauthorised development, similar to the process operated for building regulations applications. Whilst it is noted by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that such increases would still not cover the estimated costs to local authorities associated with delivering the planning service, it would begin to bridge the gap together with a proposal for an annual fee adjustment in line with inflation. Ringfencing this income so that it remains within the planning departments of local authorities is recognised as important in securing the resources necessary to deliver a quality and timely service to all users.

Such ringfencing of additional income will not be without expectations in terms of delivery of an improved system. Consequently, proposals in the consultation include reducing the point at which the planning guarantee would bite.  This means where a planning application is validated but has not been decided and no extension of time has been agreed the applicant would be able to secure a refund sooner than the current 26 weeks. Indeed, for a standard 8 week statutory determination period a refund could be sought after 16 weeks. Furthermore, the performance of LPAs is suggested to measured across a broader range of metrics including not only average speed of decision-making but also quality of decisions (based upon number of appeals upheld), extensions of time, backlog of planning applications and validation time, planning enforcement response times, ratio of planning committee to officer decisions and potentially customer experience.

Ultimately however, the speed and quality of the planning service in LPAs relies on sufficient  knowledgeable and experienced staff. It may take time to engage this expertise to the capacity needed by LPAs. In the meantime there is potential that such new metrics, if introduced simultaneously with the  proposed new fees in Summer 2023, will only add to the pressures faced by existing planners in LPAs across England, exacerbating pressures in an already under resourced and exhausted workforce.

If you’d like to read the consultation published by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities please see: Technical consultation: Stronger performance of local planning authorities supported through an increase in planning fees – GOV.UK (

If you have a development project you’re thinking about and are based in England then consider gathering your application and supplementary documents together and make that application sooner rather than later.  Dr Hazel Ann Nash and Carys Thomas are Planning Consultants at Rural Advisor and can assist you through the entire planning process.