Uttlesford cabinet fears half-a-million drop in income after council stripped of planning powers
- Credit: Will Durrant
Uttlesford District Council is facing a £214,000 hole in this year's budget.
Finance chiefs at UDC fear that a government decision to strip the council of major planning powers could lead to lost planning application fees worth more than £500,000.
This income drop is likely to put this year's budget 'in the red', so the council's cabinet on Monday, February 14 agreed to budget for a £214,162 deficit in 2022/23.
Council officers have also warned that a Residents for Uttlesford plan to invest in property – which has cost £275.6 million so far – will need a “rethink”.
Councillor Neil Hargreaves, the council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “We have taken the view that about half of the revenue that we would have got from major planning applications will be lost.
“This has taken our budget from a surplus to a deficit.”
The government identified UDC as the fourth-worst planning authority in the country, in front of Dartmoor National Park, Eastbourne – which shares planning with Lewes, and Bournemouth – which no longer exists.
The government found that 16.5% of the major applications which UDC received between March 31, 2018 and March 31, 2020 were overturned before December 2020.
The council was handed a Designation Notice which means that developers with "major" plans can bypass UDC and submit their proposals directly to the Planning Inspectorate.
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Cllr Hargreaves forecasts a revenue drop of £560,000.
He will use cash from council reserves to offset a deficit caused by this.
But the amount in reserves is projected to grow by 12.4% by 2027.
A medium-term financial strategy report also notes that UDC’s flagship plan to buy property with loans, rent for a return, sell, and repeat will be “revised”.
A property may need to be sold at the end of 2022/23 to "enable future balanced budgets to be set".
UDC has already committed £275.6m to its portfolio, which in includes a £43m Amazon warehouse in Gloucester and a £55m Waitrose warehouse in Lancashire.
The council also said it wants to grow Chesterford Research Park to provide sustainable employment in Uttlesford.
Cross-party councillors will debate the budget on Tuesday, February 22.