In Focus: the true cost of a planning application

To keep costs down, there are a number of factors to consider before submitting a planning application – as the CLA’s Shannon Fuller explains
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In May 2024, the CLA undertook a planning survey in which 72% of respondents said that they had abandoned plans to invest in their businesses as a result of problems in the planning system. Of those that abandoned plans, a staggering 70% had spent between £5,000 and £50,000+ on their projects.

Gone are the days of a simple and straightforward planning application process. Submitting a planning application is now an investment that must be considered from the outset of a project.

There are many elements that must be considered as part of a planning application and often, these require third party information in the form of reports and surveys. All of these require additional expenditure and there are a wide range of hidden costs associated with planning applications. These costs vary based on size of the development, location and length of time through the planning process. Understanding these potential expenses early on can help applicants budget more accurately and avoid unexpected costs.

Planning consultant fees

A starting point of any planning application is to consider whether it is worthwhile engaging in the assistance of a planning consultant. Consultants can provide both expertise and guidance through the planning application process. Fees can vary widely and will depend on the level of input. Some consultants may prepare and submit the application whilst others may only monitor the application process once submitted. Consultants can also act as a project manager, liaising with other design team consultants and managing the cost of an application.

Consultants fees will often be based on an hourly rate and this could start at £75 and go up to £250+. It is key to understand how much input will be required into an application to determine the amount of consultant time required. As more planning applications become delayed, more time is required of consultants and these fees are steadily increasing, but are perhaps more important than in the past.

Planning application fees

The submission of any planning application will require the payment of the application fee. Planning application fees are set nationally by the UK Government and accord with regulations. From 1 April 2025, planning application fees will increase annually in line with inflation and it is worthwhile calculating the fee prior to submitting an application. In addition, if applying via the online Planning Portal platform, it will be necessary to pay an additional service charge on top of the application fee.

Ecology and biodiversity net gain

The Environment Act 2021 introduced a requirement for new development to deliver biodiversity net gain (BNG) of at least 10%. The requirement of BNG increases the existing need to submit ecological information with any planning application. Ordinarily, ecological surveys such as bat surveys are required to assess the impact of development on local wildlife and habitats. BNG now requires additional baseline assessments to be carried out and submitted.

Any ecology survey must be undertaken by an accredited ecologist and the increase in demand following the introduction of mandatory BNG has seen these prices increase. Initial surveys can start in the hundreds but specialist surveys and mitigation methods may reach the thousands. Ecology and biodiversity must be considered from the outset of any project and it is therefore important to instruct an ecologist at the earliest opportunity and budget for any necessary information and work.

BNG can be provided on-site or off-site and will come at a cost. Where neither of these options are available, developers will need to purchase statutory BNG credits. The cost of credits can vary depending on the size and location of the development but can start at £42,000.

Architect & drawing fees

Plans and elevations are essential for any planning application and dependant on the size or scale of a project, you may need to employ an architect to prepare these for you. Before plans can be prepared, a survey may need to be undertaken of any buildings and land. The combination of surveys and plans results in a high proportion of costs for the overall application and can reach thousands of pounds.

It is also worth considering any legal costs that may be associated with a planning application. It may be necessary to engage with solicitors to agree a Section 106 agreement for any relevant obligations related to the planning permission. With the introduction of BNG, more planning applications will need enter the legal system by way of Section 106 agreements or conservation covenants, particularly if securing off-site gains.

Noise assessment

Requests for noise assessments are becoming increasingly common and can be required to evaluate the potential impact of a development on the surrounding area. These assessments must be carried out by qualified acousticians and can involve extensive fieldwork and analysis. The costs of noise assessments can vary but can start at approximately £2000.

Heritage considerations

If a site is located adjacent to or involves a heritage asset such as a listed building, it is likely that input from a heritage specialist may be required. If information such as a heritage statement is not provided, it may result in objections to the proposals and ultimately, a refusal.

Contamination report

Common with many farm diversification projects, contamination reports can be required to ensure that any development does not have any risks to human health or the environment. Not only will an assessment be required but also any remediation works prior to the development commencing.

Air quality assessment

Where air quality assessments are required, they can come at a significant cost to the developer as well as extensive time delays. For some, they are an unavoidable cost and can address objections from not only the Environmental Health Officer but also the general public.

Flood risk & drainage assessment

Flood risk assessments are required for any planning application located in flood zones two or three or any application site over one hectare in size. They are required to demonstrate that a development will not increase the flood risk to the application site or surrounding area. The initial work required for these assessments is not only costly but the required mitigation and drainage schemes can increase construction costs significantly. It must be identified early on in the project if such an assessment will be required so that this can be budgeted and instructed via the necessary professional.

Community Infrastructure Levy

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a planning charge imposed by some local planning authorities. It aims to raise funds from development to deliver infrastructure in a local area. If CIL is payable within the area of a planning application, the fees will be set by that local authority and will depend on the floorspace proposed. In some cases, CIL payments can reach £20-25,000. It is worthwhile checking if CIL is applicable prior to submitting an application and also reviewing what exemptions or reliefs may be available.


Some planning applications are refused and this can lead to additional expense. Refused applications can be resubmitted but this will require updated information and also the re-payment of any planning application fees. Whilst it is free to submit a planning appeal, the preparation of such an option is expensive. Planning appeals must be submitted within six months of a decision being issued and require thorough assessment and in some cases, legal advice. An applicant must always weigh up the risk of a resubmission or appeal against the cost of doing so.

Budgeting for your application

There is no denying that the cost of applying for planning permission has increased significantly over the past 10 years. Requests for additional information are increasing and in 2020, the CLA produced the Rural Powerhouse: a planning system designed for the rural economy report. The report identified that the huge levels of up-front costs associated with submitting a planning application coupled with the risks of an unsuccessful outcome have a detrimental impact on the delivery of development in rural areas. This deters people from applying for planning permission in the first place as the process is too high a financial risk.

It is worthwhile reviewing the validation requirements for your local planning authority at the very outset of any project. Each area will have slightly different requirements and these will depend on your proposals. Reviewing the requirements early will indicate what reports will be required for a valid application and should avoid the need for additional reports later on in the process, avoiding additional costs and time delays.

Rural Powerhouse

Check out the CLA's guidance for the next government to deliver affordable homes in every community

Key contact:

Shannon Headshot
Shannon Fuller Planning Adviser, London