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Hertsmere Borough Council to charge more for advice on planning applications
Developers will now be charged more for advice before they submit a planning application.
Hertsmere Borough Council’s executive committee agreed last night to raise its pre-application charges in order to offer a fairer and more flexible service.
The pre-application process allows council officers to advise developers on local requirements and planning policies and reduce the possible costs of invalid applications.
The council currently charges prospective applicants a flat fee of £1,500 for developments of ten buildings or more and £75 for households.
Under the new scheme, developers wishing to build 100 or more houses will be charged £4,000 and the costs for households wanting pre-application advice will rise to £80.
The number of requests for the non-compulsory service has increased by 40 per cent over the past two years.
Councillor Harvey Cohen, who is responsible for planning, said this increase in demand showed the "high regard" in which developers held the service.
Speaking during the meeting at the Civic Offices in Elstree Way, he added the new charges would be a valuable source of income for the council and would enable it to continue to offer a high quality service.
He said: "This service ensures we avoid ridiculous developments that don’t fit in with the rest of the rest of the area.
"Having officers involved from an early stage ensures a better standard of development that would benefit the community."
Councillor Anne Harrison said it seemed sensible to raise the charges.
However she expressed a concern this meant council officers, who would be responsible for assessing the merits of any plan, were getting a "bit too close" to developers.
Council leader Councillor Morris Bright said paying for pre-application fees did not buy acceptance of any proposals.
He added: "This means councillors will be involved from an early stage rather than acting as community advocates towards the end.
"We have to ensure this process is transparent and show we are doing the right thing for the community."
Councillor Cohen described the means by which the council worked to make planning as transparent as possible, including the weekly lists and the care councillors took in scrutinising major developments.
The committee decided unanimously to increase the fees.
Councillor Cohen added: "The benefits of pre-application advice is not confined to developers, it helps householders too.
"Raising the fees will provide an increased level of income for the planning developments and help address the resources issue as well as ensuring a higher standard of development for all."
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