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John Elvidge: It's not Orwell, but some authorities are more equal than others

By Isle of Thanet Gazette  |  Posted: February 15, 2013

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A COUPLE of weeks ago I commented on the published planning application fee income figures and how councils could be sorely tempted to allocate more land for development as a means of tackling the continued economic crisis and its accompanying austerity measures.

More detailed figures, now published on the Government's online planning resource, the Planning Portal, are set to reveal on a monthly basis the precise nature and number of all applications submitted, together with the fees generated.

A comparative exercise between Thanet and its four closest coastal neighbours of Dover, Canterbury, Shepway, and Swale reveal the disparity of planning income to be as marked as it is for the whole of Kent, with the month of January generating as little as £5,440 for Thanet and as much as £21,752 for Shepway.

However, it would seem the allocation of development land has yet to reap rewards for Dover, receiving just £6,706, despite having adopted a Local Development Framework Core Strategy which seeks to generate some 14,000 new homes over the next 10 to 15 years.

Perhaps it is the fact Dover's Land Allocations document, showing exactly where all of these homes and employment sites, is still to be formally agreed which provides an explanation why the wheels of development grind somewhat slowly.

Of equal importance though is the type of application submitted.

Listed Building and Conservation Area applications generate no income at all, while sometimes being the most complicated to deal with; tree and hedgerow applications similarly generate nothing; householder applications generate only a fixed fee income of £172 each; with only outline and full applications giving reasonable prospect of swelling council coffers.

The published figures must therefore be scrutinised more closely in order to see where the money is coming from and a simple exercise of removing the known householder income from the total figures shows the average fee income for each Thanet and Dover application to be just under £300 and £400 respectively, with the handful of full applications received by Swale bringing in a smile-inducing £2,600 per application.

As the coastal East Kent authorities, frequently and justifiably reported as deprived, struggle to cope with dwindling resources, it is clear some authorities, in true Orwellian style are "more equal than others" when it comes to attracting the desperately needed finance to provide the services we all demand.

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