The next three consultation questions covered the fees required to be submitted with a licence application.
Under the 2014 Act a local authority will be able to charge a fee for handling an application to issue or renew a site licence. The fee cannot exceed the amount which a local authority considers represents reasonable costs to them in deciding on an application. A local authority can charge different fees for different applications or different types of applications. The 2014 Act gives Scottish Ministers the powers to make regulations concerning these fees. The Scottish Government proposed using these powers to set out the issues a local authority can take into account, but not to set the maximum fee that a local authority can charge.
Question 3: Do you agree with the matters set out in the draft regulations as the ones that a local authority can take into account when setting its fee levels?
Questions 3 asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with ten separate matters that a local authority could take into account when setting fees. Results at this question are summarised in Table 3 below. Full results, by respondent type, are set out in Annex 2 to this report.
Table 3: Question 3 - Summary of responses
|3a||Receiving, logging and electronically storing information related to the application?||27||1||28|
|3b||Compiling and reviewing necessary documents and information?||27||1||28|
|3c||Making appointments and requesting any documents or other information from the applicant, or from any third party in connection with the licensing process?||26||2||28|
|3d||Checking the relevant planning permission is in place||27||1||28|
|3e||Applying the 'fit and proper person' test?||26||2||28|
|3f||Review of documents and decision by managers and obtaining any expert advice (including from lawyers)?||26||2||28|
|3g||Deciding whether to issue or refuse a licence, and preparing draft, renewed, and final licences?||26||1||27|
|3h||Carrying out any risk assessment process considered necessary?||25||3||28|
|3i||Reviewing representations made by an applicant received once a local authority has informed the applicant they are considering refusing the application?||22||6||28|
|3j||For a first licence application the cost of one visit to the site, including transport costs?||24||3||27|
At each of the matters, the majority of respondents who answered the question agreed that the matter should be one that a local authority can take into account when setting its fee levels. At four of the ten matters, only one respondent disagreed. This private sector organisation or trade body respondent disagreed at all the matters.
Reviewing representations made by an applicant received once a local authority has informed the applicant they are considering refusing the application was the matter with which the highest number of respondents disagreed. Six respondents (2 community or resident's groups, 2 individuals, a private sector organisation or trade body and a local government respondent) disagreed with local authorities being able to take this matter into account.
A number of respondents (ranging between 10-14 respondents depending on the matter concerned) went on to make further comments. Many of these comments were general to all the matters concerned, with a number of respondents referencing back to an initial comment under some or all subsequent matters. General comments made by those who had agreed (at Question 3a and at most or all subsequent matters) were:
- This approach would be in line with practice in other areas, such as the licensing covered under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.
- There will be costs for local authorities in implementing and administering the licensing scheme. Cost recovery, reflecting the actual resources used in processing an application, is a fair and reasonable approach to take.
- In particular, Data Protection and Freedom of Information requirements will need to be taken into account.
- Costs should be kept to a minimum, especially since the under the terms of the residents Mobile Home agreement the applicant can recover the cost of the site licence under the pitch fee review procedure.
A general comment made by a private sector organisation or trade body respondent that had disagreed at Question 3a was that costs should be calculated on a similar basis to that for planning fees and should take the scale of the operation into account. This respondent went on to note that many residential park businesses are micro businesses and cannot be expected to bear substantial costs for site licences. They also suggested that only the cost of the 'fit and proper person' test should be chargeable for licence transfers.
In addition to general comments, a small number of comments concerned one of the matters specifically. These are set out in turn below.
3b. Compiling and reviewing necessary documents and information.
- Local authorities' responsibilities under the Data Protection Act and the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 will mean that paper records, including plans, will all need scanned and securely stored.
3c. Making appointments and requesting any documents or other information from the applicant, or from any third party in connection with the licensing process.
- The local authority will need to corroborate the submitted evidence on the Natural Person or business entity.
- Information from third parties should include that provided by residents and holiday makers.
3d. Checking the relevant planning permission is in place.
- This is essential since the appropriate consent must be in place before a licence can be issued. Local authorities will need to ensure that owners are fully compliant and understand all regulations.
- Local authorities should make regular and/or unannounced checks to ensure that planning conditions are being met.
- The applicant should provide proof as part of the application process. Where proof is not available, significant work could arise in establishing historical planning consents.
3e. Applying the 'fit and proper person' test.
- Reasonable enquiries will need to be made of those who are in control of the site. The time involved will depend on the numbers of people involved in a site, the information known and the complexity of the business.
- There should be a central information point which local authorities can use to obtain and share information.
- A separate fee should be charged for this as sites will have to apply for 'fit and proper person' tests when there are staff changes.
3f. Review of documents and decision by managers and obtaining any expert advice (including from lawyers).
- It will be important to ensure the due process test is satisfied should matters of concern be identified.
3h. Carrying out any risk assessment process considered necessary.
- It is not clear what risk assessment relates to in this context - officer safety, fire risk, flood risk etc.?
- This measure would allow flexibility of approach should the fitness check reveal matters of concern.
- The actual carrying out of a risk assessment should not be included, as local authorities have a statutory duty to carry out this process for their employees. However, if any site was considered high risk and as requiring two officers to visit, this would increase the resources needed. The regulations could include the cost of implementing the significant findings of any risk assessment rather than the carrying out of the risk assessment.
3i. Reviewing representations made by an applicant received once a local authority has informed the applicant they are considering refusing the application.
- The fee seems to be for determining the application and all the required investigations should have been conducted before the local authority considers refusing the application.
- Any cost would be likely to be minimal but should still be built in.
3j. For a first licence application the cost of one visit to the site, including transport costs.
- Clarification is required as to whether local authorities are expected to, or can charge for, site visits for renewals and/or transfers. If local authorities are to be given flexibility, the costs need to be differentiated and the arrangements set out clearly in any guidance.
- The Regulations should allow for all costs associated with necessary site visits to determine compliance to be included. Additional visits may be required if the site is non-compliant with licence conditions and an associated charge would encourage applicants to meet site licence conditions at the time of application.
- It should be possible to take any form of intervention (such as a letter highlighting problems or costs of re-inspection to check any issues have been addressed) into account when setting fees.
Question 4: Are there any additional costs a local authority should be able to take into account? If so, please set them out below.
Thirteen respondents went on to suggest additional costs a local authority should be able to take into account.
The most frequently made suggestion was that local authorities should be able to take into account the costs of compliance inspections to ensure site licence conditions are being met and/or standards are being maintained. Five individual respondents and two local government respondents raised this issue. An individual respondent highlighted a number of compliance-related issues that should be considered including by-passing of water meters and the installation of appropriate transformers for electrical services and fire hydrants.
Other site visit-related comments included that: more than one visit may be required in determining a licence; it can be necessary to conduct a site visit for a licence renewal or transfer application; a visit may be required to confirm that any problems identified have been addressed; it should be possible to charge a fee for each site visit; and that transport costs associated with site visits should be recoverable.
Other additional costs which one or more local government respondent suggested could be taken into account were those associated with:
- Maintaining IT and software systems, including creating amending and uploading relevant web-based information.
- Seeking clarification about information provided or seeking additional information.
- Issuing any intervention form or the issue of a letter highlighting problems with a licence application, renewal or transfer.
- Hearing representations from other interested parties to an application, including residents or other council services or agencies.
- Where a licence is being considered for refusal, preparation of a report for the local authority's Licensing Sub-Committee. Also, the resources required for staff to attend Committee.
- If a licence is refused, preparing for and attending any appeal.
- Investigation and administrative costs associated with any complaints made during the term of the licence.
Other comments focused on the relative costs associated with application, renewal or transfer. They included that renewal licences should be considered to be a new licence, as under the HMO licensing regime, and should be subject to the same administrative arrangements as for a new licence application. Alternatively, it was suggested that the extent of any change to management arrangements or the site itself since the last application affects the amount of work required in assessing a licence. It was felt that matters which were and remain satisfactory will require little or no work additional work.
Question 5: Do you agree with the proposal not to set a maximum fee level at this stage?
Question 5 asked respondents whether they agreed with the proposal not to set a maximum fee level at this stage. Responses by respondent type are set out in Table 4 below.
Table 4: Question 5 - responses by respondent type
|Type of respondent||Yes||No||Don't know||Total|
|Community or residents' group||4||1||5|
|Private sector organisation or trade body||1||1|
The majority of respondents (15 out of the 28 who answered this question) agreed with the proposal not to set maximum fees at this stage. The majority of community or resident's groups, housing association and local government respondents were in agreement. However, the majority of private sector organisation or trade body and individual respondents disagreed.
Twenty-one respondents went on to make a further comment (eleven had agreed, nine had disagreed and one had not answered Question 5). Respondents who had agreed pointed to advantages they considered would come with this approach. These included that it will allow local authorities to set a fee which reflects their experience of assessing applications once the new regulatory framework is introduced. It was also suggested that it would allow local authorities to take account of any particular factors affecting their local area, such as geography and the profile of the sites. One local government respondent went on to suggest that, over time, it would be possible to draw up a scale of fees based on local authorities' experience of administering the licensing regime.
Further comments made by those agreeing with the proposal included that:
- Setting a maximum fee could encourage local authorities to charge up to that fee rather than making their own assessment of the costs being incurred and hence being able to explain and justify the fees being charged.
- There should be clear guidance setting out the scope of how fees can be determined.
- The level of fees should be dependent on the number of pitches on a site.
The most frequently-raised issue amongst those who had disagreed was that this approach would be open to misuse. Other concerns focused on the need for clarity - including for the residents who may ultimately bear the costs of the fees - and the need for a degree of consistency of practice across Scotland. The considerable variations in fees charged by local authorities for HMO licensing in Scotland was referenced as was the variation in fees for site licensing in England. It was suggested that an approach more akin to that for planning fees would be preferable and, as with a respondent who had agreed, an approach which links the level of fees to the size of the site and the number of pitches was advocated.