The Institute has written to the Chancellor in advance of his July budget.
The letter highlights that local authority planning and development services have experienced the largest cuts of any local government service area since 2010. According to the Local Government Association, by 2015/16 core funding for local government will have been reduced by 40 per cent and further reductions are anticipated.
Janet Askew, President of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) said:
“Planning and planners have a major role in contributing solutions to addressing some of the pressing national challenges facing us, such as building more homes, and creating jobs and great places to live and work. We have written to the Chancellor to impress upon him that in order for us to meet our national objectives increasing capacity in local authority planning teams is an urgent priority and cannot be avoided if the government expects to deliver on its ambitious programme. In his July budget, we are also calling for a national rise in planning fees in line with the rate of inflation as a short term measure. There is further scope, we believe, for local authorities and developers to work together, for example through planning performance and pre-application agreements, to increase resourcing in specific areas.
In the letter to the Chancellor, we make the case that the planning and development function of a local authority is essential to facilitate economic growth and deliver housing; two of the government’s central priorities. Authorities need to be well resourced, particularly with experienced and skilled professional planning officers, in order to provide the best quality advice to elected members and deliver timely and sound planning decisions in the interests of immediate and wider communities.
Key points made in the letter:
• In the interim, a national rise in planning application fees in line with the rate of inflation would be a sensible short term measure
• We strongly warn against future cuts to local authority spending due to the knock on effect this will have for the delivery of new homes and permanent employment
• Opinions from within the profession as to whether planning fees should be set locally to more accurately fully cover the cost of service is divided, but RTPI would see no harm in this providing that authorities have adequate capacity to set them and could give assurances to applicants that they will receive a proportional service (in terms of fair decision making)
• We see scope for the further formalising of the cost of planning services to be funded by applicants through measures like pre application charging and planning performance agreements, although this should come with a guarantee of good service from the Local Authority
• Planning has already contributed its fair share to reducing the overall deficit. It is poised to contribute in the future by supporting additional tax generating growth, but only if sufficient investment in services are made.
Read the letter in full
Read our March 2015 budget response and analysis