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Councils hit as applications fall

PUBLISHED: 19:38 11 January 2009 | UPDATED: 22:11 05 July 2010

BUILDERS, architects and councils are feeling the pinch as planning application numbers slump along with the economy.

All eight of the district councils in Norfolk and Waveney in north Suffolk have reported a drop in the number of planning permission requests submitted by households and businesses in 2008 compared with 2007 - with the majority seeing a fall of between 10pc and 17pc.

BUILDERS, architects and councils are feeling the pinch as planning application numbers slump along with the economy.

All eight of the district councils in Norfolk and Waveney in north Suffolk have reported a drop in the number of planning permission requests submitted by households and businesses in 2008 compared with 2007 - with the majority seeing a fall of between 10pc and 17pc.

In north Norfolk, the figure plunged from 2,000 to 1,666 in a year, and Breckland's numbers dropped from 2,123 to 1,765, although west Norfolk saw the least effect - just a 2.4pc decrease from 2,609 to 2,547.

For many councils who draw up budgets at the beginning of each financial year based on how much money they expect to get from application fees, that has meant a shortfall in income.

North Norfolk District Council estimates it will have received £20,800 less than expected in application fees by April. It has already adjusted its budget accordingly and plans to take the drop into account when it sets next year's.

Councils have been doubly hit during the last year thanks to a change in legislation which came into force in October and reduced the number of improvements needing planning consent.

But architects and builders are also feeling the effects, with fewer people wanting their services, suggesting the finger of blame lies largely with the turbulent economic climate.

Helen Osgood, regional director of the Federation of Master Builders, said there had been a significant drop in the number of inquiries received on its “find a builder” website. She said people were thinking twice about spending their money and builders were having to take on different types of work to keep “ticking over”.

Frank Smith, a Cromer-based builder, said while he knew many companies who were feeling the pinch, his was bucking the trend which he puts down to his willingness to do the little jobs.

He said: “Small jobs lead to other jobs. A small job is another customer's name.”

Many news reports over the past few months have concentrated on the economic slump's impact on major development projects - particularly new housing estates - and council officers agree that the number of major applications has declined at a greater rate than smaller home improvements.

But Mike Innes, vice-president of the Norfolk Association of Architects, thinks the problem is widespread. He said although architects involved in the government-funded schools programme were thriving, those working on individual house alterations, as well as large scale housing developments, were feeling the crunch.

He said: “There is optimism that, rather than move, people will extend and alter, but at the moment the feeling is people are waiting to see what's happening.”


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