Council to charge for informal advice

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People who ask the council for informal advice about planning applications will have to pay more than £25 future.

Council leaders expect new and other increased fees will raise more than £100,000 a year.

“The council is not obliged to respond to informal enquiries relating to the need for and likelihood of gaining planning and related consents.

“But in common with most councils, we provide this service because it is important to the customer and helps us to deliver a more effective service,” according to Ian Gray, Calderdale Council’s director of economy and environment.

It discourages wholly inappropriate applications and can encourage suitable amendments to applications before they are submitted.

In 2011, the council received 19 informal enquiries relating to major developments, 286 minor and 321 concerning the need for permission to carry out development.

“We have calculated that the total hourly cost of development management activities is about £48.

“Based on 2012 figures, income would be in the region of £106,000 assuming there is no decline in demand for the service arising from cost,” said Mr Gray, in a report to the cabinet.

The new charges for informal inquiries start at £30 plus VAT rising to £800 plus VAT for major developments.

Architects, planners and surveyors have raised concerns about the need for a higher level of quality assurance if they are to pay for informal advice.

“This is recognised and new management systems will be needed to ensure that the service is of a quality commensurate with the charges,” said Mr Gray.