An increase in planning application fees

Company: Pleydell Smithyman

Planning changes have now come into effect that garden centre owners need to be aware of.

Following consultation in spring 2023, an increase in planning application fees in England, of up to 35%, came into force on 6th December 2023.

Increased planning application fees

Kathryn Farden, who heads the town planning team at garden centre development specialists Pleydell Smithyman said “It has been stated that planning fees do not cover the cost of processing planning applications.

“In an attempt to tackle this, the Government has increased planning application fees by 35% for major applications, and 25% for minor and other applications, which came into effect on 6th December. Fees are also set to rise annually with inflation from 1st April 2025 – capped at 10%.”

Removing the ‘free go’

“In addition the ‘free go’ for resubmitted applications following withdrawal/refusal within 12 months is being phased out” to emphasise the importance of the pre-application stage for discussion and negotiation with the local planning authority. However, it should be noted that resources in local authority planning teams often means that pre-application services can be reduced or delayed.

Right to a refund

Under current rules, applicants also have the right to a refund if their application is not determined within 26 weeks and an extension of time is not agreed. For non-major applications this will be reduced to 16 weeks.

The Government’s response on the consultation undertaken on the proposed increase in planning fees states that extensions of time will continue to be available in ‘exceptional circumstances.’ This would be a significant change in terms of flexibility to negotiate solutions, using what is currently the common practice of extending determinations deadlines, potentially causing delays in decisions, thus potentially slowing garden centre development projects up.

Andrew Burton from Pleydell Smithyman said “Operationally, the timing for starting infrastructure changes are often a key factor when planning a project, with seasonal trade often influencing timelines.

"These town planning changes potentially encourage the need for garden centres to think about strategic planning time a little more, and they could well expand the project management timeline. Saying that, if the development is thought out in advance and with a solid commercial and town planning case, then the changes can likely be managed efficiently.

“The price increases are something that will affect everyone at some level, but the ‘free go’ change highlighted by Kathryn is something garden centres really do need to be aware of when undertaking planning projects in the future.”

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