Working for local householders

Plans to charge householders for pre-planning application advice have been put on hold by Test Valley Borough Council thanks to Romsey councillor Mark Cooper.

The Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee was asked to approve the proposal by Head of Planning,Paul Jackson, at its first meeting of 2011. Most the pre-application fee levels suggested to Councillors were mainly on a sliding scale* dependent on the size of the application.  However, pre-application advice for householders was recommended to a flat rate of £40 by Mr Jackson.  Councillor Cooper said that a flat rate would be perceived as inherently unfair. “It is reminiscent of the old, hated poll tax”, he said.

“An applicant asking advice about a garden shed would be charged exactly the same as a householder planning a complex £75,000 extension. In any event, householders as local Council taxpayers, as distinct from local developers out to make a profit, should be entitled to receive sound planning advice”.

“The householder wins because he or she is able to make a realistic and achievable application; the Council wins because the planning application is is in better shape to be dealt with by the planning officers. Furthermore, the cost of administering a householder charge would be significant but the income derived would be very small. Larger, commercial applicants should certainly pay for pre-application advice, but not local householders planning home improvements or a small extension”, he said

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed with Cllr Cooper’s view and voted to recommend to the Council’s Cabinet that the householder pre-application fee proposal be scrapped. Fee proposals for larger, non-householder applications are not affected. As a member of the Overview and Scrutinty Committee I fully supported Cllt Cooper’s proposal and I hope the borough cabinet will do the same.

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