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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

PLANNING COMMITTEE: 17TH MARCH, 2011

 

REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 21ST FEBRUARY, 2011

 

 

"C1229          ARRANGEMENTS FOR CHARGING FOR PRE-APPLICATION PLANNING ADVICE (PT) (SCRUTINY - ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT) -

 

Cabinet considered the introduction of fees for pre-application planning advice for specific types of development and were requested to review the hourly rate for providing general planning information and advice.

 

Section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003, which was enacted in Wales in 2006 provided power for authorities, as defined in the Local Government Act 1999, to charge for discretionary services.  Discretionary services were those services that an authority had the power but not a duty to provide.

 

Currently, the authority provided a free pre-application advice service to all.  In the financial year 2009/10 the Development Control Group received 500 requests for pre-application advice.  Requests for such advice were encouraged to be in writing to keep proper records, but advice was also provided by phone or in meetings.  The extent of advice provided was limited by the staff resources available and the need to complete programmed work, for which a planning fee had been paid, or to process appeals or enforcement complaints which had to be completed to set statutory deadlines.  Planning fees were paid for most planning applications, lawful development certificates, most prior notification submissions and High Hedge complaints.

 

Requests for advice on whether planning permission would be granted needed to be researched and detailed responses provided.  This is similar to part of the work involved in assessing a planning application (where a fee would have to be paid). 

 

Not all proposals that were the subject of pre-application discussions resulted in the submission of a planning application and associated fees.  It was not uncommon for a developer to propose a very major scheme and insist that it needed to be considered by senior officers at several different meetings but then not to progress with the proposal.  Furthermore, such advice could be totally ignored by developers.

 

Research had been undertaken into charging for pre-application advice by the Planning Advisory Service (PAS), a government funded organisation.  This research had found that Councils in England consider that charges have focussed the minds of agents they deal with.  Other Councils were particularly pleased that when they introduced pre-application charging there was an appreciable reduction in time wasting enquiries creating more time for officers to undertake more productive elements of their work. 

 

Cabinet noted that the trend for charging for pre-application advice was increasing in Wales with Bridgend, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Denbighshire and Brecon Beacons National Park recently introducing pre-submission charging schemes. 

 

It was proposed that charges apply to major developments such as new residential developments, change of use of buildings over 1000m², new buildings and extensions over 1000m², mixed used developments over 1000m², other large scale/complex applications such as a small wind farm, and minor developments such as 1-9 dwellings, change of use of buildings under 1000m², new buildings and extensions to non-residential buildings between up to 1000m² in size, mixed use development less than 1000m² and advertisements.

 

Charges would not apply to the provision of advice relating to householder development, heritage proposals, Council proposals or partnership/joint venture enterprise, Town and Community Council proposals, developments necessitated as a consequence of permitted development rights being removed, District Valuers queries, Tree advice or a development for a known profit making community facility scheme by a registered charity or voluntary sector organisation.

 

Attached at Appendix B to the report was a random sample of other authorities which showed wide variations in the charges applied for pre-application advice.  The proposed fees for the Vale of Glamorgan would be towards the bottom end for written responses.  The fees for meetings was not as straight forward as several authorities calculated their fees as the 'written response' with an additional hourly rate for meetings as a combined service package for the service.

 

The current proposal would be based on the time and costs involved in responding to requests for written advice and a request for a meeting, which was likely to require written confirmation.  In the case of referring significant or strategic skills the ability to agree a charge 'up front' for a programme of pre-application advice over a period a time was built into the schedule.

 

The advantages of charging for pre-application advice were:

 

·                         Additional revenue stream to the authority to help safeguard and sustain the service provided, at a time of financial constraints.

·                         The maintenance of a pre-application advice service and an intention to provide an improve pre-application advice service to serious developers which in turn led to improved planning applications and better quality developments in the Council's area.  The provision of chargeable advice was preferred to the withdrawal of provision of advice.

·                         The elimination of many serial/time wasting enquiries creating more time for officers to undertake more productive elements of their work for the community.

 

Attached at Appendix A to the report was a draft pre-application charging advice note detailing the charging arrangements that the Council could use.  The advice also covered costs for undertaking research and planning histories and in respect of other information.

 

Finally, it was also recommended that the standard fee already charged for planning enquiries relating to searches or information provision to £50 per hour to reflect the work involved and the need to raise fee income to sustain the work of the Division. 

 

This was a matter for Executive decision.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T subject to consultation with the Planning Committee, the introduction of fees for pre-application planning advice in accordance with the principle and schedule attached at Appendix A to the report be approved.

 

(2)       T H A T the increase in the fees charged for general planning enquires relating to searches or information provision from £30 to £50 an hour be approved.

 

(3)       T H A T a progress report be brought before Cabinet in February 2012.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To seek authorisation to commence charging fees for pre-planning application advice in accordance with the Local Government Act 2003.

 

(2)       To cover the costs of providing general planning information to companies and the public.

 

(3)       To review progress."

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Cabinet: 21st February, 2011