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Planning fee incomes continue to fall despite bigger workloads

Words: Huw Morris
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Local authority planning department fee incomes continued to be significantly lower during the summer despite workloads increasing, according to the Planning Portal.

Its monthly Planning Market Insight Report says fee income between June and August continued to be down by nearly £3.5 million on 2019. This follows figures in April and May that showed a combined loss of £9.3 million in England.

However, August saw a 19 per cent increase in submissions when compared with 2019, maintaining the recovery after Covid-19.

The Planning Portal said the pattern has been remarkably consistent throughout the summer months, with volumes for June, July and August all around 20 per cent higher than 2019, reaching the point “where the shortfall in applications from March to May has been made up”.

In August, 51,458 applications were submitted through the Planning Portal, down 13 per cent compared with the previous month’s record-breaking total of 59,062. However, this was an increase of 19 per cent compared with August 2019’s total of 43,272 .

The report says the variation in the trends for planning application volumes and fees is likely to be explained by the current make-up of applications. Full planning and outline applications have taken longer to recover and come back into the pipeline, which cross-subsidise smaller, high-volume applications and therefore are a key income stream to sustaining planning departments.

The latest report says the most common householder improvement project is for extension developments, with around 74 per cent of submissions. It also reveals that the most popular size for prior approval applications for larger rear extensions is building out between 6-6.99 metres in length from the rear of the house.

As seen in June and July, the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber were the strongest areas for growth. The majority of application types have risen in the North East, where in July and August, full planning applications were 24 per cent and 5 per cent higher respectively than in the same months of 2019.

London continues its pattern of slow recovery from Covid-19, with August only 11 per cent above 2019 levels. But Wales appears to see an upswing in applications compared with its usual pattern – up 25 per cent in August on last year.

The report is available here.

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