Planning: Your money back guarantee
Commercial Property Solicitor Robbie Mather explains where a planning fee may be refunded after 26 weeks under the government's 'Planning Guarantee'.
The government’s ‘Planning Guarantee’ dictates that no application should spend more than a year with decision makers. With the opportunity to appeal, the government sliced a year in half and said no application should be with a local planning authority for more than 26 weeks and no appeal should be with the Planning Inspectorate for more than 26 weeks.
Sounds good on paper but without a stick to beat a sluggish planning authority with it was received as simple crowd-pleasing rhetoric.
Cue section 9a of the 2012 Fee Regulations which was introduced in 2013 with little pomp or splendour. The section confirms that where a valid planning application has been with a local planning authority for more than 26 weeks and it has not been determined and a time extension has not been agreed, then the local planning authority must refund the planning fee.
Our reading of section 9a is that the local planning authority must simply refund the fee and that there is no need for an applicant to either be aware of the section or to ask for the refund. The onus is therefore on the local planning authority to hand back the planning fee in cases where they have failed to determine the application within 26 weeks.
A word of caution - recent case law in June 2018 confirms that when the determination period is extended beyond the 26 week period, then the planning fee does not fall to be refunded even if the planning authority fails to determine the application within the extended period.
Many applications incur relatively small planning fees however some applications, particularly where the fee is calculated on floorspace and you want to construct a large building, can easily run into the thousands. Better in your pocket than theirs.
About the author
Robbie is a Partner and head of the Commercial Property team.