Swansea Council To Charge For Pre-Application Advice

Swansea City Council have announced that they are going to start charging for pre-planning application enquiries. This follows the trend seen in England and in Cardiff and the spread of this policy does not seem to be abating.
Why this move? Swansea City Council says that it is "to encourage and promote high quality development and to ensure that any significant planning issues are raised as early as possible in the process."
Application fees are dictated by the Welsh Assembly Government and applied the same to all authorities. With no increase in these fees for a number of years and with departments facing cut backs, it's no wonder that the Councils have had to review alternative income sources. However, will this stifle development? Will it reduce the number of pre-application enquiries and will it clog-up the planning system with straightforward issues that could have been resolved before an application?
Cardiff City Council have been charging for pre-planning applications for a few years, and our experience has shown that there are pitfalls with the system, in particular when it comes to permitted development. Permitted development is the term for certain works that don't require planning consent e.g. small extensions under a certain size. However, upon sale, it can become apparent that purchasers aren't happy to be told that building works 'didn't need planning permission' and so for years, Darkin Architects have recommended a simple pre-planning enquiry that allows the local planning department to confirm this is the case. 
In Cardiff, given the upfront fee and hourly charge rate for these simple enquiries, we've often recommend to our clients that they submit a planning application anyway as the fee is fixed at £166. This situation effectively makes permitted development pointless.
There is some hope, in that Swansea City Council's announcement categorises simple extensions as an exemption from these charges, so hopefully it will be business as usual for our domestic clients.
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