15% planning fee hike to raise extra £60,000 for Cheltenham Borough Council
BUILDING in Cheltenham is becoming more costly after councillors raised the cost of submitting planning applications.
The borough council wants to recoup more of the cash they spend on the service.
Planning services in the borough are not covered by the money they generate but it is hoped that a Government decision to allow authorities to up their prices by 15 per cent will help make up more of the difference.
Cheltenham Borough Council has estimated that the hike will generate the authority an additional £60,000 in the coming year.
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Councillor John Rawson (LD, St Peters), cabinet member for finance, said: "Running a planning service is a very substantial cost on the budgets of local councils, and the money we receive from planning fees falls a long way short of covering the full cost of this service.
"The Government is keen on the idea of allowing councils to recover a bigger proportion of the costs from fees.
"At one time they were talking about allowing councils to set their own fees, but it was felt that this might have a damaging impact on the economy.
"Instead what they came up with was this 15 per cent increase.
"From our point of view, this is a welcome addition to our income, at a time when our Government funding generally is being sharply cut.
"The money will not be ring-fenced for planning purposes, but on the other hand we will be investing an extra £90,000 in the coming year towards the Joint Core Strategy and our own local Cheltenham Plan."
Mr Rawson believed the planning service is unlikely to ever actually pay for itself because of the amount of work involved in seeing applications through.
"I don't think we will ever see a situation where the planning service is fully paid for out of fees," he said.
"Perhaps that is as it should be. After all, the whole community has an interest in making sure that there is an effective planning service to protect the local environment and the character of the town."
National planning fee rates have not been increased since 2008.
Councillor Jon Walklett (LD, St Paul's), cabinet member for corporate services, added: "Planning is not allowed to make a profit but we do try to cover our costs. Our costs outweigh the fees we receive, so this is an opportunity to do a bit of catch up and get on top of it."