Borough seeks assurance it will be able to increase developer fees in order to stave of further job losses

Six planning staff have lost their jobs and six posts are being held vacant at Westminster council, as the authority waits to learn whether it will be allowed to set its own fees to handle planning applications.

Earlier this year the council announced that 31 planning staff were at risk of redundancy following £60m budget cuts over the next two years.

The Westminster Property Association, which represents property companies and land owners, has urged communities secretary Eric Pickles to approve the early introduction of increased planning fees in a bid to stave off redundancies.

The council wants higher fees to raise an extra £1.3m in 2011/12 and a further £340,000 in 2012/13.

Westminster Property Association chairman David Silverman, who wrote to Pickles in January, said a well-funded planning service was vital for economic development:

“We think the government is dragging its heels because it thinks the introduction of planning fees is contrary to their agenda for growth. Please bring in fees ‘sooner rather than later’ is what our members are saying.

“A properly funded and excellent planning service is an absolutely essential part of an agenda for growth. Developers are happy for local authorities to be self-funded. That’s a major preference to the alternative. The cost of delay in applications on major schemes is immense.”