Greg Clark says plans set out last year ‘can’t be delivered’

Greg Clark admitted yesterday that the government was re-thinking its proposals to localise the payment of planning application fees by developers.

The planning minister said the government was worried that the plans, set out in a consultation in November 2010, meant developers would be unable to get a clear answer on how much they will have to pay to submit a planning application.

Clark said the government was now working with the Local Government Association (LGA) to determine a series of “benchmark” levels for planning fees, before coming out with new proposals.

Clark’s comments came during a seminar at which a number of developers called for clarity on the issue with the director of the £8bn Earls Court regeneration project revealing the developer, CapCo, had already £2m on planning fees.

Clark said: “As minister for decentralisation I think decisions should be taken as locally as is reasonable. However, it becomes unreasonable if you couldn’t get an answer as to how much fees are now going to be. It turned out to be very difficult to discover what fees would be.”

“It’s an area where, having called for greater decentralisation, we’re not actually in a position to introduce it.”

The 2010 consultation said that the majority of councils received less in planning fees than they spent processing applications, and aimed to address this by allowing councils to set their own fees dependent upon local costs.

Clark said the work with the LGA would determine “what systems might need to be established” to create planning fees that “reflect the work required [by the local authority].”

He refused to say when the government would set out revised plans but said he will be saying more “in the months ahead.”

Gary Yardley, investment director at CapCo, said the system needed to be reviewed as the firm had spent £2m under a planning performance agreement with Hammersmith and Fulham council regarding the Earls Court development “and now we are being told we’ve got to pay more because it’s going to take longer.”

He said: “Currently there’s no workable structure in place – any clear guidance would be a good thing.”