Examiner recommends North Docklands office levy is cut to zero

An examiner has recommended that a London borough cuts the rate it proposes to charge developers of office schemes through a planning tariff in a key commercial district in order to ensure the levy does not result in an 'inappropriate reduction' in funding for the east-west Crossrail project.

Docklands: examiner has recommended change to North Docklands office charge (picture: Clive Darra)
Docklands: examiner has recommended change to North Docklands office charge (picture: Clive Darra)

In his report on the examination of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ draft Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging schedule, examiner Malcolm Rivett concluded that the authority’s CIL provides an appropriate basis for the collection of the levy, subject to four modifications.

The examiner's report recommended that a proposed £50 per square metre CIL charge for office development in the North Docklands area should be reduced to zero.

The examiner said that the change is necessary in order to take appropriate account of strategic planning document the London Plan and a mayoral supplementary planning document which says that boroughs should seek contributions towards Crossrail via "top up" planning obligations in designated zones near Crossrail stations.

According to the examiner’s report, the council’s proposed £50 per square metre rate for the area had assumed that developer contributions could be shared between the borough’s CIL and the Crossrail top-up.

But viability evidence indicates that office development in North Docklands "would not viably be able to pay the proposed Tower Hamlets CIL and the full Crossrail ‘top-up’", the report said.

"To ensure that in striking an appropriate balance the Tower Hamlets CIL schedule appropriate takes account of the provisions of policy 6.5 of the London Plan and the relevant SPG … it is necessary to set a nil rate for offices in the North Docklands area," the report said.

The examiner also recommended that the charging schedule be modified to set a nil rate for all development in Tower Hamlets within the boundaries of four strategic sites: the Bishopsgate Goods Yard, Wood Wharf, Westferry Printworks and London Dock.

The report said that there is a "reasonable likelihood that the proposed charge rates would render unviable development on the four large allocated sites", which would not have been treated differently to other areas under the council's CIL proposals.

Faraz Baber, executive director for policy at business group London First, said that it is "delighted with the result".

Baber said that the examiner's report sent a clear message that councils with strategic sites should provide "clear evidence" on how their proposed CIL rates would affect the viability of such sites. "One size does not fit all," he said.

Report On The Examination Of The Draft London Borough Of Tower Hamlets Community Infrastructure Levy Charging Schedule is available here.

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