The Department of Communities and Local Government has published a consultation containing proposals affecting planning application fees.

The proposals are to:

  • Decentralise responsibility for setting planning application fees to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs)
  • Widen the scope of fees so that LPAs may charge more for their services.

This could allow LPAs to charge for re-submitted applications (the end of the "free go") and to charge a higher fee for retrospective applications.

It has been suggested that the changes could result in an average increase of between 10% and 15% above the current fee levels.

Compensation

In Mockford v Durham County Council, a landowner acquired amenity land which was formerly a primary school, and which adjoined his property, for about £9,000. He applied for planning permission to change the use to private garden. His application was refused.

The landowner served a purchase notice on the Council, requiring it to buy the land on the basis that it had become incapable of reasonably beneficial use.

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) (formerly the Lands Tribunal) was required to determine the compensation payable on the basis of deemed compulsory purchase. Compensation on that basis is calculated as the amount the land might be expected to realise if sold on the open market by a willing seller.

The tribunal had to have regard to the value as amenity land and as a site for potential development. The council issued a Certificate of Appropriate Alternative Development (CAAD) which confirmed that the only development for which planning permission would be given would be for development as a school.

The tribunal held that the value as a school was nil, and the value as amenity land was £500. The tribunal rejected the approach that the landowner should be compensated for the sum he had paid plus costs, although no evidence in support of that approach was given.

This is an interesting exercise on two obscure parts of the Planning Act. Purchase notices and CAADs are seldom used and this is a case study in their use and operation.

Regional Strategies - Latest!

Following the decision in the Cala Homes case, where the High Court held that the purported abolition of Regional Strategies (RS) by Eric Pickles was unlawful, it was announced that the Localism Bill would contain the appropriate revocation of the RSs.

Guidance given by the Planning Inspectorate stated: "The effect of the Cala Homes decision is twofold:

  • The 6 July revocation decision has been quashed and as a consequence, the RS as it stood on 5 July forms an ongoing part of the development plan
  • However the intention to abolish RS remains as announced on 27 May 2010. This intention will be given statutory effect in due course".

The Localism Bill contains an appropriate provision.

Cala Homes brought a second challenge which resulted in a decision by Mr Justice Lindblom that the Government's announcement about the revocation should be "stayed", pending a full hearing into the legality of the Government's stance. This is not likely to take place before the end of January 2011.

The solicitor acting for Cala Homes indicated that the case rests on whether decision-makers are able to have regard to a "mere intention" to change the law at some unspecified future time.

The situation leaves local planning authorities and prospective applicants for planning permission in a difficult position. For so long as RSs are not formally repealed, they remain material considerations to be taken into account in decisions on applications; yet if the Government has its way they will be abolished at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The Planning Inspectorate issued a statement on 8 December 2010 in which it states, "pending determination of the challenge, decision-makers in local authorities and at the Planning Inspectorate will in their determination of planning applications and appeals need to consider whether the existence of the challenge and the basis of it affects the significance and weight which they judge may be given to the Secretary of State's statements..."