Wandsworth set to ditch mooted levy on office space

A south London council is set to drop plans to charge developers £100 per square metre of new office and retail space across much of the borough.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) plans published earlier this year by the London Borough of Wandsworth included a proposal to charge a levy of £100 per square metre of office or retail development across the whole of the borough, excluding Roehampton, where no fee would be charged.

But Nick Cuff, the chair of the council's planning committee, told a seminar organised by lobby group the British Property Federation that the authority is "looking to change the commercial and retail rate to a zero" across the borough.

He said: "I don't think that Wandsworth is a borough that is going to see office-led development going forward. What you will see is developers coming forward and renewing their existing office space.

"Potentially, having a CIL charge on that net additional floorspace will remove any upside that developers will have."

A spokesman for the council said: "We are considering a reduced charge for retail and offices in our existing town centres. We've commissioned a report examining viability in relation to these developments, which will help inform our final decisions."

Speaking earlier at the seminar, Tom Dobson, a director at London-based planning consultancy Quod, said that figures in councils' emerging CIL plans suggest that developers may face charges of up to £43,000 per two-bed private home.

He said that, in some cases, CIL charges could be much higher than section 106 planning gain obligations. For example, Dobson said that existing London Borough of Brent supplementary planning guidance would see a charge of around £6,000 per two-bed home through section 106, while its CIL proposals would see a charge of more than £17,000 for the property.

But Steve Woolley, CIL team leader at the Department for Communities and Local Government, ruled out giving councils more flexibility to grant developers exemptions from paying the tariff.

He said: "You have to be careful about councils being able to break down that transparency and doing backroom deals and letting people off paying parts of the CIL."

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