Why does pre-application advice cost so much ?

One of the many things that is great about working for PAS is the range of work we cover. Positive planning is becoming the brand in which we cover our work on DM – you can find useful stuff on pre-application, extensions of time and PPAs. We’re going to be adding more practitioner-focused guides on conditions and section 106 agreements soon.

We don’t just put stuff on the web and hope it works. We road test it in several ways, both with individual councils and also in events for groups. We held some excellent events last year to introduce our “ten principles of pre-application” and as part of those I ran a session on “How much should pre-application cost? ”

In this session I reminded the audience (most of whom I knew from various benchmarking sessions over the years) to review some of their peers charges for pre-application advice [see slides towards the end]. I had worried that this would be pretty dry biscuits for a room full of planners but it was a great success. It was startling how badly done the cost schedules were. It was impossible to try and establish the basis for the charge, and these councils had got off to a terrible start in setting out a business-like first impression.

What makes the more disappointing is that the schedules in this list were not picked because they were bad they were just on the first page of search results.

Just this week at our event for peers I explained that out in England now there are two sorts of planning authority. There are those that went on our collective voyage of discovery on the benchmark. These councils are economically literate and understand the mechanics of how to price work. But, there is no doubt in my mind that many councils are still plucking numbers out of the air or clumsily attempting to gouge the market.

Councils have discretion to set these charges under the relevant Act, but they must be genuine attempts at cost recovery. Some councils are risking a challenge individually and also risking a more general ask on planning fees more generally.

One thought on “Why does pre-application advice cost so much ?

  1. Having been behind the production of a lot of this stuff I am not going to be disagreeing! And I think that the call to be more business like is really very appropriate. Just like developers are in business, so are the planners – a few differences – not least that how we do business is government by statute – like the one about cost recovery.

    But that aside, I thought it worth passing on comments that were made by some developers that I was talking to in a recent peer challenge. If good planning services came for free – then that’s what they would ideally like. But being business people they are not opposed to paying for services they need. The problem is that they absolutely hate paying and not receiving.
    Paying extra for pre-application discussions or for planning performance agreements to them means paying for a level of service that they would not ordinarily get.

    So no wonder local planning authorities get bad press where the extra charges are hoovered up and still there are not enough resources to deliver the promised service. There is some good practice around to show how the lumps and bumps in the workload can be managed by pooling such contributions to resources.

    But the catch phrase really has to be “Something for Something”. Discuss this with your senior managers and finance people.

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