01/05/2009

NI Planning Service Proposes Price Hike

The Northern Ireland Assembly has heard of plans to increased planning application fees by 20%.

Proposals brought forward to the Environment Committee are believed to be aimed at saving jobs within the Planning Service.

Officials told MLAs the move was essential following a substantial drop in planning applications, which fell by £4.5m from last year's £21m.

Committee members were told the minister responsible for the service, Sammy Wilson, has backed the tariff increase.
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Currently a certificate to make minor home improves can cost around £130. Larger scale construction schemes can run into thousands of pounds.

Some MLAs have responded to the price hike, slamming it as another obstacle for the already ailing building sector.

Stephen Peover, permanent secretary at the Department of Environment, said: "The intention is to come forward with a proposal for a 20% increase in planning application fees.

"If we were a business, if the department were a commercial business, I would be laying off considerable numbers of Planning Service staff because we cannot afford to pay for them."

(PR/JM)

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