Building slump to cost city £200k
A SLUMP in the number of new building developments is to cost a cash-strapped council almost £200,000.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council was banking on a big increase in income from the fees it charges for handling planning applications and advising developers.
But the stammering economic recovery has seen a below expected number of developments – hitting the council's finances for a second year running.
New figures show finance officers expected to raise more than £1.7 million in 2012/13 from planning and building regulation fees.
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Now the authority says it will make £110,000 less than budgeted from planning fees and £78,000 less from specialist support for big developments.
Officers have blamed 'general economic conditions' and say its planning department will still be able to cover its costs.
But the income shortfall exposes the ongoing challenges faced in Stoke-on-Trent, where the authority is desperate to encourage developments to help create jobs and economic growth.
Independent councillor Dave Conway, pictured below, leader of the opposition, has called on the authority to sell land cheaply with planning permission in place to cut costs and kick-start building.
He said: "They are obviously setting unachievable targets, which means they are having to find a way of covering this lost revenue from somewhere else.
"It happened last year and it is happening again now – but still they tell us how well they are managing their budgets."
Bills for processing major applications can run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Developers pay more than £16,000 when filing official plans for housing estates with more than 50 properties.
The fees help cover staff time, as well as surveys carried out by officers who have to carry out rigorous assessments before advising councillors on whether to accept or reject applications.
Stalled developments include housing plans for the former Victoria Ground, in Stoke.
St Modwen and Persimmon Homes have now submitted an application for 113 homes on the land in Boothen but admit 'well-known viability issues' must still be overcome before any development can start.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport said: "The development management service is covering its costs.
"The target income figures were set some time ago and, in line with national trends and the current economic climate, we have seen a downturn in income in this area.
"We are working to encourage development, investment and regeneration."