Rising application fees and a change in how planning applications could be decided are in the pipeline for Harrogate Borough Council.
The potential changes to planning services have been proposed with application fees to rise by 20 percent and planning referral committees facing abolition.
Council documents show concerns over the state of the current system as planning committee and planning referral committee members are often left frustrated by one another.
A report to the General Purposes committee says: “Planning Committee members have voiced their dissatisfaction at decisions being taken out of their hands by a Committee which meets less frequently and is therefore perceived as less experienced at considering applications. Planning Referral Committee members, conversely, have expressed dissatisfaction that
Planning Committee can resolve to make decisions inappropriately in the knowledge that an application will be ‘referred up’ by the Solicitor to the Council...”
New deferral procedures have since been accepted by the General Purposes Committee as a new option.
Planning committees could now take further time to get advice and address members’ concern in place of applications going to planning referral committees.
A decision will be made at full council next month.
Coun Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport said: “This would allow a planning application to be deferred in certain circumstances, so that further advice can be sought and members’ concerns addressed, rather than referring to a separate committee.
“As a consequence, there would be no need for a Planning Referral Committee which will be abolished.
“The decision on whether or not to defer an application under the new arrangements would rest with the council’s legal team and will depend on the particular circumstances involved and the views of the Planning Committee.”
Potential changes in April come as the council faces an increasing number of planning applications district wide.
However central government’s new ‘fixing our broken housing market’ white paper that was issued in February resulted in local authorities across the country recieving an invitation to raise their planning application fees.
It claims this is part of efforts to boost local authorities ability to deliver housing growth.
Additional revenue raised through the 20 percent rise in fees will be reinvested into planning services to help speed up and modernize services.
Coun Burnett said: “It is about balancing and providing a better service, the majority of applications we get come from large developers. If we can provide a better service, getting them through the council in a timely manner with good service will have a knock on effect on addressing housing as well.
“It is part of efforts to help the processing become easier and give councils more resources to do this.
“The service however is not profit making and this won’t change as it will be used for planning and not covering a shortfall.”
It is believed developers will be prepared to pay more for planning services if increased costs are seen to be resulting in improved planning services.
The new system will be implemented from July of this year.