Planning costs pile up for Mike Watts

Good news to see that B&NES council leader Paul Crossley is finally congratulating Mike Watts for building his Kelston Toll Road and helping thousands of local drivers overcome the disruption caused by the closure of a short stretch of the A431.

“He has done something the council wasn’t able to do and well done to him,” Crossley told the Bath Chronicle. “He has used his initiative and taken a risk, using his money. He has also been working positively with the council to jump through all the necessary hoops, such as applying for retrospective planning permission.”

But last week, the council claimed Mike Watts had got it wrong when he said retrospective planning costs could come to some £30,000.

“Until we see where the site plan is actually drawn we cannot confirm what the fee will be,” said a council spokesperson, “however as a guide the road itself covers c.0.4ha therefore the fee is likely to be between £780 and the maximum of £1690. We do not know where the £30,000 figure has come from however this does not relate to any planning application fee—the TPA’s article is therefore factually incorrect and misleading.”

So I went back to Mr. Watts and asked him how much the Council planning demands on his toll road might cost him.

“The breakdown of costs for retrospective planning is as follows,” he says, noting that “there might be some variations but this will only be upwards. Planning Consultant £12,000; Architect £1,200; Ecology Report £1,500; Surveyor £800; Ground Report £5,000 (this could rise to £15k if more info is required); Application Fees £1,170; Total £20,500 (plus possible extra £10k = £30k). All above plus VAT.”

Now of course a number of these charges are not directly levied by the council, but the onerous planning regulations require the builder – in this case Mr. Watts – to pay them nonetheless.

Let’s hope B&NES sees sense and recognises the community’s gratitude to Mr. Watts and cuts him some slack and the costs don’t rise any higher.

Tim Newark, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance

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