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CIL - A frustrating wait for change


Proposals by the government's CIL review team are looking good, says Sue Bridge, but why do we have to wait until the Autumn for them to be properly considered?

Along with the housing white paper, the government released the report of the community infrastructure levy (CIL) review team entitled A New Approach to Developer Contributions.  

CIL was introduced in 2010 as the preferred means of collecting developer contributions towards infrastructure investment. Although it’s intended to operate alongside a streamlined Section 106 system, annual amendments have seen its regulations become complex and bureaucratic. 

The report debunks some myths, particularly the impact of CIL on affordable housing provision, which surprised me. It looks at why the take-up of CIL has been patchy and is critical of the number of CIL exemptions and the pooling restrictions. 

The findings can be summarised as “could do better”. It rejects the ‘do nothing’ or ‘do very little’ options as not being tenable and considers but rejects abolition and returning to the S106 status quo. It opts for more extensive reform, ‘A New Approach to Developer Contributions’.

“I welcome the proposal to link new CIL to the local plan process” 

What will developers think? I expect a welcome for the principle of a simplified local infrastructure tariff (LIT) to be applied to all development, combined with S106 for larger sites. This would ensure that all development makes a contribution to local infrastructure provision and would be inherently fairer than the present system with its growing list of exemptions. But it is important that the LIT is devised to be simple to introduce.

The proposed strategic infrastructure levy (SIL) for combined authorities, modelled on the London mayoral CIL, is essential to reflect the move to new ways of working in local government.  

I welcome the proposal to link new CIL to the local plan process. There is now a disturbing disconnect between the purpose of CIL funding essential infrastructure projects and the regulation 123 list (which allows for the pooling of up to five separate S106 agreements in place of CIL) not having to be connected to the development plan and its infrastructure delivery plan in any way.

The review team recommends removing restrictions to the number of S106 obligations that can be pooled to pay for a single piece of infrastructure. Good! This provision showed a deep misunderstanding of the operation of S106, and developers and councils will welcome its removal. Other aspects of CIL are considered, including the top-slicing of the receipt by parish councils and neighbourhoods, which needs a rethink.

Although the government wanted the team to recommend improvements to CIL in support of wider housing and growth objectives, it has parked consideration of the report until the Autumn Budget. How frustrating.

Sue Bridge is director of Sue Bridge Consulting


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