New charge for advice to developers

A COUNCIL is set to start charging for some of the informal advice it gives developers before they submit planning applications.

Hartlepool Borough Council Council’s planning services team currently offers a free ‘one-stop shop’ advisory service which identifies any permissions which are required for proposed developments and advises people on how to apply for them.

Providing this service now accounts for half of the team’s entire workload and it has led council chiefs to decide to charge for the service to ensure that it does not fall as a general cost to council tax-payers.

But, the charges will not apply to the informal advice which the team gives to householders considering submitting planning applications for changes to their homes, such as erecting conservatories and installing solar panels, unless a fast-track service is required.

The new charges will come into effect on October 1 and will also apply to the monitoring of planning legal agreements which the planning services team carries out.

Chris Pipe, the council’s planning services manager, said: “The one-stop shop is not a service which the council is required to provide by law, but it has considerable benefits for would-be planning applicants.

“These include reducing the likelihood of unexpected delays in the formal planning application process and also indicating whether a development proposal would be completely unacceptable, therefore saving the would-be applicant the cost of pursuing a formal planning application.

“Given the substantial proportion of our workload which this informal advice service now accounts for and the benefits this service gives to developers, we feel it is fair to make some charge for this facility and we have drawn up an appropriate and reasonable range of fees.

“It is important to stress, however, that the charges will not apply to the informal planning advice we give to householders regarding modifications to their own homes unless they require a ‘fast track’ service.”

For more information, including a breakdown of the new charges, call (01429) 523741 or visit the planning pages on the council’s website by logging onto www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk and selecting the link with this story.