Don Foster MP*

Foster: “Bath’s pittance for planning fees.”

Bath MP Don Foster today spoke out against further costs being passed on to Bath residents, in the form of the Government’s under-funding of B&NES; Council’s planning process.

Main ImageDon Foster today challenged the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ms. Sally Keeble MP, to address Bath’s three biggest planning issues.
Don Foster said: “Firstly, problems arise when a city is investing in major developments. Bath’s planners are investing major amounts of time and energy in four big projects: the Combe Down Mine, the Bath Spa, the Western Riverside Development and Avon Street Development. The £44,000 of planning fees they receive will come nowhere near to covering B&NES’ costs.
“Planning fees should directly relate to the value of the project - especially when the projected commercial worth of the completed project is so lucrative.”
Secondly, Mr. Foster called for assistance for Bath with another substantial cost for its major developments. B&NES must pay for environmental impact assessments which ensure that Bath’s supply of spa water is preserved. Bristol, for example, doesn’t have to take this costly consideration into account.
Don Foster said, “The third hurdle is that Bath has the largest number of listed buildings outside of the City of Westminster. Planning applications for grade 1 or 2* listed buildings must be approved by English Heritage and the Secretary of State - again, at the Council’s expense.
“Owners of listed buildings are, in effect, custodians. They shouldn’t be charged an extra application fee. But the £1.7m cut to B&NES’ Government grant means that the Council isn’t in a position to absorb these extra costs either.
“The Local Government Settlement should reflect the additional costs that towns and cities with many historical buildings face. Cities like Bath bear substantial heritage costs on behalf of the nation; it’s time that Government funding paid a part in their preservation.”
Ministerial comments follow…

The Minister responded that she acknowledged that there was a significant problem with major developments. She said that the issue was one that could be raised during discussions on the Planning Green Paper. However, she conceded that the Government would be powerless to effect change in the short term, since an appropriate slot in the legislative timetable would not be found for some time.
Generally, the Minister acknowledged the Government’s intention that developers should meet total costs of major developments.
The Minister also acknowledged that the funding of Listed Building planning consent was a problem, both in terms of the poor resourcing of the planning process and its costs. She announced that a study is being conducted to look at these very specific issues.
These costs may well be considered as part of the spending review that will shortly be announced. However, a change to the unfair funding formula would be necessary if B&NES is to benefit from this extra funding.

Notes to Editors:

• Don Foster gave evidence to the Standing Committee for the Draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2002, which is to reform the rules for planning application fees.

• The Committee wishes to raise planning application fees by 14 %, across the board.

• Under these proposals, the maximum planning application fee a council can charge is £11,000. B&NES has spent in excess of £500,000 on the Southgate application.

• The Government estimates that the total cost to Councils of processing these applications is £650 m. Even taking into account the increase to fees, Councils will only recoup £250 m nationally. The abnormal situation in B&NES means that that differential between Council revenue and costs incurred will be even greater. (Source: comments given by the Minister in Committee.)

This article published: 18/09/2023

Published by Bath Liberal Democrats, 31 James St West, Bath, BA1 2BT. Printed and hosted by JPC Infonet, 2 St Georges Works, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8AA. Your Privacy._blank


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