Exclusive - Developers 'rarely appearing' at infrastructure levy hearings

Concerns are mounting over the level of developer involvement in the creation of new development tariffs to be charged by councils to raise funds for local infrastructure.

Croydon redevelopment: the local authority is one of six to have no in-person representations
Croydon redevelopment: the local authority is one of six to have no in-person representations

Exclusive Planning research has revealed low levels of developers - and other parties - appearing in person to speak at Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) examination hearings: in some cases none at all.

A survey of the first English local authorities to hold CIL examinations found that the average number of written submissions offering comments on a local authority's draft charging schedule was 18.

Based on responses from 19 of 26 councils that had active CIL charging regimes at the start of this month, the average number of representations in person at an examination is three.

Six councils - Croydon, Fareham, Havant, Portsmouth, Redbridge and Wycombe - had none.

While half of those authorities dealt with their CIL examinations by written representation only, they would have been obliged to hold a public examination had anyone asked to speak in person.

Stephen Ashworth, partner at law firm Dentons, said industry input for the CIL-setting process was "abysmally low" - principally because there was a perception among developers that there was "no point in objecting" to draft charging schedules.

"The experience was - for the first 12 or so - that the examiner rubber-stamped the documents, and people take a message from that," he said.

Ashworth said challenging charging schedules that used generic supporting evidence was a particular concern for developers because of the cost of commissioning original viability research, and the fact that there are confidentiality implications.

Steve Woolley, former Department for Communities and Local Government CIL team leader and now a consultant at Peter Brett Associates, said developers needed to be engaged in the CIL process from the very start, but cautioned that a lack of debate at the examination stage was not necessarily a sign of apathy.

"When no-one requests the opportunity to speak at an examination, you could draw the conclusion that the process has worked well - people have no comments, but they're basically happy," he said.

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