Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.



Wednesday 11 November 1992


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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Robert Hicks

Ainger, Mr. Nick (Pembroke)

Allason, Mr. Rupert (Torbay)

Atkinson, Mr. Peter (Hexham)

Austin-Walker, Mr. John (Woolwich)

Baldry, Mr. Tony (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment)

Barnes, Mr. Harry (Derbyshire, North-East)

Bates, Mr. Michael (Langbaurgh)

Battle, Mr. John (Leeds, West)

Benton, Mr. Joe (Bootle)

Betts, Mr. Clive (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Booth, Mr. Hartley (Finchley)

Coe, Mr. Sebastian (Falmouth and Camborne)

Conway, Mr. Derek (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

Devlin, Mr. Tim (Stockton, South)

Elletson, Mr. Harold (Blackpool, North)

Hughes, Mr. Robert G. (Harrow, West)

Jones, Mr. Nigel (Cheltenham)

McLeish, Mr. Henry (Fife, Central)

Mr. R. G. James, Committee Clerk

3 Third Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 11 November 1992

[MR. ROBERT HICKS in the Chair]

Draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1992

10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1992.

The Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the other regulations before us, namely the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1992.

Mr. Baldry: The main change introduced is a general increase of 10 per cent in the fees charged for planning applications. Since they were introduced in 1981, fees have represented a contribution by the applicant to the costs that local authorities incur in processing and determining applications. Applicants are charged according to the nature of the proposed development and to its size. The draft regulations make three minor changes to the fees regime. The purpose of the first change—the only one to apply to Scotland—is to rectify an anomaly. To resolve that anomaly, the regulations will introduce the same fee of £22 for planning applications and determinations in relation to agricultural buildings. The second minor change is consequential. A fee of £22 will be payable with prior determination involving permitted development on particular types of radio mast and radio equipment. The third minor change introduces a flat-rate fee for applications to extend the duration of an unimplemented planning permission that has not yet lapsed. It is proposed that a flat-rate fee of £60 be payable. The Government believe that users and potential beneficiaries of the development control system should meet the costs incurred in determining planning applications, which would otherwise fall to be met by charge and business rate payers generally. Even after taking into account the increase in fees proposed in the amending regulations now before the House, planning application fees continue to be modest, and represent a very small proportion of developers' overall costs. The government believe that the other proposed amendment to the fees regime is fully justified. I commend the regulations to the Committee.


10.32 am

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): I shall be extremely brief. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), who should have been dealing with this matter, unfortunately cannot be here this morning. He is in the capital of the north—on the right side of the Pennines—in Manchester. The increase of 10 per cent is a contribution to the costs incurred by planning authorities. If we do not approve the regulations, we would, in effect, be saying that such costs would be borne not by planning applicants but by poll tax payers and, from next April, council tax payers. Local authorities favour such an increase because they believe that planning applicants should at least make a reasonable contribution to the costs incurred. However, two points must be made, the first of which relates to householders. Obviously, the fees for householders are modest. It is felt that an increase would discourage applications. Has the Minister's Department examined the position in different parts of the country? The avoidance of a charge may prove to be far more expensive ultimately because of the need to take retrospective action for a house extension or home improvement that needs planning approval but has not received it. Such action is far more costly than dealing with it in the normal way in a planning procedure application. Will the Minister assure us that his Department, through local authorities, will study the impact that an increase in fees such as that proposed today will have? Obviously, those making the bigger applications covered by the increase in fees are not likely to try to avoid them because they cannot hope to do so. There can be considerable variation in costs because of the way in which local authorities carry out consultation and other matters. Has the Minister considered that aspect in relation to the cost increase that we are considering? Some local authorities will lose far more than others because they believe that there should be wide consultation. Therefore, even the increases that we are discussing will not be regarded by them as a reasonable contribution to their costs.

10.36 am

Mr. Baldry: The hon. Gentleman is right, but we must strike a balance. For householders, the cost of a planning application is a very small part of the overall cost. Most minor domestic developments do not require planning applications, so few householders pay any fee. With regard to broader developments, I shall give the Committee some indicative figures. An application substantially to alter an existing dwelling house would be charged at £60, and one to build a complete new dwelling house would attract a fee of only £120. Those fees seem to me to be entirely reasonable. The hon. Gentleman made a second point about consultation. In February, when we announced new 5 procedures requiring a form of publicity for all planning applications, my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo), undertook that the extra cost of that requirement would be taken into account in the next review of planning fees, and that is what we are now doing. Most local planning authorities were already carrying out a form of publicity before the new requirements came into effect on 17 July. We have been monitoring developments closely and the evicence suggests that the extra spending was relatively small. Allowance has been made for that in our proposal for a 10 per cent increase. So I consider that we have dealt with both concerns mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

10.37 am

Mr. Pike: I welcome the Minister's reply. His comments about householders were exactly what I wanted to hear. It is a matter of achieving a reasonable balance and his use of that word gave me confidence that he and his Department were trying to achieve it. If we were to get that balance wrong, it could be more costly in the long term and that would be folly. The Ministry also responded to my second point in the way that I wished, so, unless any of my hon. Friends wish to press the matter to a Division, I do not intend to do so.

10.38 am

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke): May I ask the Minister for two explanations? First, why are the Scottish regulations due to come into force in 1992 and the English regulations in 1993. Both draft regulations state on their front pages: "These Regulations shall come into force on the twenty-eighth day after the day on which they are made." Secondly, can the Minister explain the differences shown on page 8 of the Scottish regulations? The maximum charge will now be £7,650 for operations not within categories 1 to 7. The charge for category 7—operations connected with exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas in Scotland—the maximum will be £7,575, whereas for the same category in England and Wales, it will be £9,000. I should appreciate an explanation of those two points.

10.40 am

Mr. Baldry: As I made clear in my opening remarks, the purpose of the first change, which is the only one that applies to Scotland, is to rectify the anomaly that certain kinds of permitted development that do not 6 require express planning permission, a general permission having been granted under the general development order, nevertheless require the approval of the local planning authority for certain details before they can proceed. We are dealing with that anomaly and increasing the fee to £22. With respect to the increase in fees for England, the House in its wisdom decided at some stage in the past that the uprating of fees should be done by affirmative resolution, rather than by a negative resolution, so year on year or when the House sees fit, we uprate them. Clearly, it must be right to give notice to local authorities, developers and others of an increase in fees in due course. It is part of a continuum. Generally, as at present, when the periodical uprating occurs, the opportunity is taken to tidy up any anomalies. A difference has existed for some time between English and Scottish planning fees—nothing particularly turns on it. The only matter that specifically affects Scotland in the regulations is the anomaly that relates to the fees to be charged for agricultural buildings, which are being uprated from £20 to £22. That might cause one to question the wisdom of the House when it decided that that should be done by affirmative rather than by negative resolution, but it is not for me to question the wisdom of the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1992.


Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1992.—[Mr. Baldry.]

Committee rose at eighteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.



Hicks, Mr. Robert (Chairman)

Ainger, Mr.

Allason, Mr. Rupert

Atkinson, Mr. Peter

Austin-Walker, Mr.

Baldry, Mr.

Barnes, Mr.

Bates, Mr.

Betts, Mr.

Booth, Mr.

Coe, Mr.

Conway, Mr.

Devlin, Mr.

Elletson, Mr.

Hughes, Mr. Robert G.

The following also attended pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(2): Pike, Mr. Peter L. (Burnley)